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TREMOR by Winston Graham


by Winston Graham

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14056-8
Publisher: St. Martin's

 A curiously mundane title for an acutely observed novel of manners cum thriller: the prolific Graham (Stephanie, 1993, etc.) showcases a commanding grasp of human foibles and yearnings, as well as an appetite for--literally--earthshaking coincidences. Center stage in the ensemble cast is 28-year-old Matthew Morris, an unsuccessful American novelist, recently separated, now bound for Agadir, Morocco, for a two-week holiday. On his flight are Jack Frazier, a small-time con who's just pulled a London bank job and absconded with his cohorts' share of the cash, and Nadine Deschamps, a gorgeous French actress biding her time between films. Frazier needs to get advice from his father (Pop has underworld connections) on how to obtain a new passport before his fellow thieves track him down, while Matthew undertakes a seduction of Nadine--an undertaking that brings her Gallic reserve into collision with his coltish American style and finds the lovebirds enjoying the largesse of local royalty. Meantime, Graham throws in a band of wayward French prostitutes on holiday, along with a stuffed-shirt Parisian dignitary and his shrewish wife, who doesn't approve of her husband's familiarity with one of the vacationing harlots. There's also an awkward but poignant May-December romance between an elderly American lawyer and his 30ish housekeeper. Setting everything up with care, and offering deft description of place and mood, Graham propels the disparate strands of his story toward a tragic climax: the February 29, 1960, destruction by earthquake of the resort city of Agadir--a classic deus ex machina but pulled off here with tremendous verve. No one remains unaffected by the disaster, with Matthew Morris receiving perhaps the harshest punishment--as well as the steepest reward. Deliberate and old-fashioned storytelling--the good, patient, rewarding kind.