AUTHOR / J.F.FREEDMAN.
WARNER BOOKS. HARDCOVERS. / $29.95 CAN.
REVIEW BY ALEX
novel about intensely strained family ties between Walt Gaines, an eminent
widowed archaeologist, and his three adult sons FALLEN IDOLS is incidentally
a murder-mystery: who was responsible for the murder of Walts
wife Jocelyn, gunned down ruthlessly in the rainforest of Central America?
Despite it testing the limits of our patience with its long-windedness
and its tendency to go over the same narrative ground repetitiously
FALLEN IDOLS is unusually absorbing. Tom, the middle son Clancy
is the eldest of the Gaines boys; Will the youngest gradually
takes center-stage conquering his role as the family slacker, though
he is very close to completing his PhD. in Theoretical Mathematics and
assuming his fathers academic mantle and glory. But even the depiction
of Toms obstinate intensity is marred by a couple of crudely written
sex scenes. Inexpertly described couplings that damage the rising crescendo
of the central father-son struggle for the truth orchestrated by a father
deep in denial and hopelessly addicted to the macho-masculinist ethos.
All told the lengthy descriptions of modern American daily life are
utterly banal compared with the crisp evocation of the fictional Central
American country and its people caught by writer Freedman with flair
and affection. One episode stands out for its suave writing and the
build-up of tension late in this lengthy novel (Why do almost
all aspiring best-sellers have to run to 400 pages these days?) an arrogant
Hispanic automotive executive is caught smuggling a valuable Mayan artifact
and is given the third-degree by customs agents in San Diego. Those
14 pages have a zest and an insider view that is utterly convincing.
Had Freedman capitalized less on his penchant for describing the elaborate
cross-country travels of the brothers and had generated more suspense
by penning a more condensed traditional mystery novel he would have
entirely succeeded in reaching his admirable goal of blending a family
romance with a thriller.
© Alex Grant June 2003
all rights reserved