Genre: Crime Fiction
Warner Books Hardback
ISBN 0-446-52754-8 $23.95 US
They always say that one should read the label
before quaffing the wine and with Redemption
by Nancy Geary (author of Misfortune),
you are forewarned. This is her second mystery novel and
again stars Frances Pratt , a seasoned criminal investigator,
not unlike Ms Geary herself, the former prosecutor for the
Criminal Bureau of Massachusettss Attorney Generals
Office. Now she too has turned to a life of crime.
In reading Redemption one suspects that at some time in
Ms Gearys life she was forced to spend a period in
bed under the weather and watched every episode of Days
of Our Lives. The dialogue, heavy sighs, imperial
airs and sexual deviousness that are the hallmark of every
episode is riven throughout Redemption. The wealthy bluebloods
of Manchester-by-the-sea seem caricatures of real rich people,
faded wealth or not. It is a world of vast homes, yachts,
private beaches, traditions and family secrets. The kids
always go to Harvard or Bennington and all cling to a facade
of civilised standards, usually turning a blind eye to the
amoral behaviour of their peers. This is pretty much a world
over thing and every yacht or golf club follow the same
rules of decorum. The rich are easy pickings
for a crime writer; there is always something nasty hiding
in the closet.
In setting the scene for the eventual murder of one Hope
Lawrence, just an hour before she was due to be married
to handsome Jack Cabot; son of the wealthy Jim Cabot from
one of the oldest and most respected families on the coast;
she is found hanging by her neck in a closet, most definitely
dead. A terrible suicide.
Prior to this, we are introduced to a whole host of people
who resent or might want this pale bulimic, intensely neurotic,
wafer thin pretty blonde not to marry handsome lovesick
Jack. Her preferences for wild sex with her former lobsterman
boyfriend one moment and guilt purges the next certainly
mark her out for death quite early on in the novel. Jack
is under pressure from his father to get a pre-nuptial agreement
signed, the lobsterman doesnt want her to marry Jack
and wont accept $10,000 to go away from her father.
And then there is Hopes obsession with the church,
Father Whitney and all its rituals. She is a complex young
woman with a past. Not the kind of girl whod normally
lands a straightlaced rich boy like Jack, but rather abnormally
he loves her more than money itself.
There is torment in wading through the first 100 pages,
thick as treacle with extensive character monologues, expositions
and pre-wedding rituals. They reaffirm that we are indeed
among the rich but do finally give way to something more
like a crime novel. The unfortunate Hope, rather unsurprisingly
is discovered not to have committed suicide. A diamond engagement
ring is missing and the autopsy reveals she was strangled
before she was hung.
Enter Miss Marple (Miss Frances Pratt). By chance a relation
and an important wedding guest, she begins an investigation.
Admittedly, the novel really picks up once the investigation
of the murder begins. Nancy Geary comes into her own with
her extensive criminal knowledge and procedures. As a writer
she has adopted a stance between Murder
She Wrote and Tom Wolfes Bonfire
of Vanities with none of the formers humour
or latters style or finesse. Some dialogue is often
awkward possibly reflective of the situation she
is in as an investigator of a family that does not want
to reveal its secrets. The mixed pudding of sexual abuse,
hatred, lust, guilt, money, sibling rivalry and impending
nuptials are just too much, even for an episode for Days
of Our Lives. The introduction of helpful local
cops such as Elvis Mallory, who helpfully is married to
the female medical examiner and the odd character with names
like Percy Lukewarm perhaps are meant to be humorous but
tend to distract.
Frances Pratt meets little resistance to her probing and
has perhaps too much co-operation from the police, witnesses
and aunt and uncles who perhaps in the real world would
cling a little tighter to their dreadful secrets.
It is likely the East Coast rich are better catalogued by
the likes of Gore Vidal or Richard Ford. Redemption does
pick up pace as it goes along and you do want to know what
happened to the spoiled young Hope. Her endless misfortune
certainly denied her happiness from an early age but the
elaborate and dramatic end of her life was perhaps too well
embroidered. The eventual criminal could, one feels, have
chosen a less public and dramatic way to deal with Hope.
Clearly Frances Pratt will be making another appearance
in the future, once senses there will always be another
body floating in a rich mans pool to be investigated.
You can read more about Nancy
Geary on her own website nancygeary.com