ODD'S END by Timothy Wynne-Jones


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Psychological gothic in Nova Scotia--as first-novelist Wynne-Jones starts out with a dandy premise but winds up with too many implausibilities in the plotting and too much archness in the telling. Painter Mary Close and professor-husband Malcolm return separately to their beautiful secluded-seacoast home one night to find a lavish gourmet dinner laid out. Where did it come from? Mary and Malcolm each naturally suspect the other at first, then shift suspicions to friends. But the reader is soon introduced to narration from the real culprit: a nameless, psychotic, elegant, aging man who has searched the world for his ideal house, driving out (sometimes killing) the residents of houses he covets; and now Mr. X. has resolved to drive the Closes out of ""Odd's End."" So, while sneaky Mr. X. goes the Gaslight gamut--moving things around, using Malcolm's typewriter to send obscene letters, tampering with Mary's paintings--the couple gets on each other's nerves, Malcolm pushed into the arms of colleague Angela, Mary seeing a psychiatrist. Only after much not-very-plausible theorizing (is Mary perhaps a multiple personality?) do they seek help from the police and try to catch the intruder in the act. And Mr. X. reacts to this attempt by kidnapping and killing Angela (whom Malcolm has started to suspect), hanging her in a closet. . . where Malcolm will find her in the horror-night finale of slamming doors, flashing knives, and shots in the dark. A fairly serviceable matinee-chiller scenario, perhaps--but the novel doesn't quite work either as suspense (the psycho-villain's motives and methods become increasingly unconvincing) or as a psychological study of a couple-in-crisis. Moreover, Mary, Malcolm, and Mr. X. all have a tendency toward distracting cutesiness (Mary and Malcolm entertain each other with show-offy jokes and campy charades). Still, the central premise supplies an initial grab, and overall it's a passable, fey diversion--especially (since Mr. X, describes nearly everything in the Closes' elegantly appointed manse) for readers partial to high-toned interior decoration.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1980
Publisher: Little, Brown