Reviews: Crime Fiction
by Nancy Geary
Warner Books Hardback
ISBN 0-446-52754-8 $23.95 US
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
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
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
© Marcel DAgneau June 2003
Writer v Agent
all rights reserved