NERVE ENDINGS by William Martin


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Back Bay (1980), Martin's dynastic suspense-adventure, was improbable, messy, and great fun; but this contemporary chase-thriller, careening from coast to coast, is simply an improbable mess--top-heavy with a doughy mystery, Jeanne Darrow, wife of up-and-coming TV producer Roger, learns that her husband has had a virtually fatal accident in Maine's Penobscot Bay--just as he was nearing the home of elderly recluse Andrew MacGregor, head of the conglomerate which has been gobbling up cable television franchises all across the country. So, against the wishes of John Meade, MacGregor's nephew and secretary, Jeanne travels from L.A. to Maine to be with Roger's mangled and bandaged body before she allows life support systems to be withdrawn. And then, back in L.A., Jeanne reluctantly turns sleuth--encouraged by James Whiting of Boston, whose life was saved by a kidney transplant from the dead Roger. (After his recovery, Whiting impulsively flies to L.A. to thank Jeanne.) Among the various TV and movie types reacting in suspicious ways to Roger's demise: his boss, Howard Rudermann; gossipist Vicki Rogers; and glitter game-show host, Vanghan Lawrence, whose producing company, Lawrence/Sunshine Productions (once thought to be on the verge of being gobbled up by MacGregor), has apparently come out on top in a gold-plated deal. Furthermore, all these and others are curiously frantic to get a peek at the tapes that Roger Darrow had sent home from a cross-country tour, researching a documentary on the corporate pollution of the media. So finally Whiting--referred to jovially by the bad guys as ""the Kidney""--even persuades Jeanne to trace Roger's steps to find out what Roger was trying to tell them: in interviews from coast to coast they uncover a nefarious plan to subvert the democratic process by a TV instant-poll gimmick on MacGregor's cables; they'll be running, running, since Somebody has unleashed a pack of pro assassins. There's some fine quasi-Hitchcock action at a Wyoming outpost, on a snowy highway, in a New York warehouse and a Maine blizzard. But despite a few dandy scenes along the way, this lumpy mixture of Ludlum, Hitch, and all those other conspiracy/chase types is too soggy to fly--with layer upon layer of implausibility, ton upon ton of padding.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Crown