Reminder: April 13 is John D. MacDonald week. Let me know if you'd like to do a review if you don't ordinarily do one.
Ed Gorman is the author of BLINDSIDE, the newest Dev Conrad story. You can find him here.
The Plastic Nightmare, Richard Neely
Richard Neely wrote non-series crime novels that pretty much covered the entire range of dark suspense. I mentioned that in the best of them the weapon of choice is not poison, bullets or garrote. He always prefered sexual betrayl.
Plastic is a good example. Using amnesia as the central device ,Dan Mariotte must reconstruct his life. Learning that the beautiful woman at his bedside all these months in the hospital--his wife--may have tried to kill him in a car accident is only the first of many surprises shared by Mariotte and the reader alike.
What gives the novel grit is Neely's take on the privileged class. He frequently wrote about very successful men (he was a very successful adverts man himself) and their women. The time was the Seventies. Private clubs, privte planes, private lives. But for all the sparkle of their lives there was in Neely's people a despair that could only be assauged (briefly) by sex. Preferably illicit sex. Betrayl sex. Men betrayed women and women betrayed men. It was Jackie Collins only for real.
Plastic is a snapshot of a certain period, the Seventies when the Fortune 500 dudes wore sideburns and faux hippie clothes and flashed the peace sign almost as often as they flashed their American Express Gold cards. Johny Carson hipsters. The counter culture co-opted by th pigs.
The end is a stunner, which is why I can say little about the plot. Neely knew what he was doing. Watching him work was always a pleasure.
Reading Michael Robotham recently and it reminded me of Patricia Carlon, another Aussie who I read about a decade or so ago when my library purchased copies of her reprinted books (Soho Press).
This was her novel that truly impressed me. Martin Deeford, a lonely clerk picks up Rose Gault, a young woman waiting for a bus on a rainy Sunday afternoon. She is willing to have sex, but he wants to talk and it ends badly for Rose. Leaving afterward, he runs into a woman walking nearby with a child. He then tries to find and silence the witness.
The woman, a jeweler, hasn't witnessed anything at all and Rose, it turns out is not dead. This is a game of cat and mouse, where neither party knows his/her role in the game. At 190 pages you can read this in a sitting and you probably will. Carlon reminds me of Margaret Millar with her psychological insights into the lives of two lonely people.
Elisabeth Grace Foley
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang