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MURDER ON RYE
by Shirley Prather
Writers Club Press, iUniverse.com, 2000
Reviewed by Pamela White
Lindsay Roberts, former bartender and family lawyer, receives a job offer for a nebulous negotiating job in London. As concerned as she is about building a life for herself across the Atlantic, she still manages to jump straight into the social scene. The day of her arrival at Heathrow, she meets a dashing pianist in the hotel lounge and her dreamy boss helps her find a modern flat. Her landlord is a Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard. The facile coincidences start piling up.
This cannot truly be called a murder mystery. A news report mentions a prison break. Later there is a murder; in fact there are two. And one does take place in a village called Rye, but itís part of the background. Mix in incompetent police work comparable only to the Keystone cops, inept crooks who manage to leave heroin powder in the cockpit of a plane used for smuggling and an author who avoids research and you have MURDER ON RYE, Shirley Pratherís first published work.
Forget the murders, the true crime is how hard the reader must work to follow the story. Within the first 16 pages, Prather writes in both third and first person indiscriminately. Forgivable? Perhaps, but when the narrator drops into second person, "But when you are given an opportunity like this, could you turn it down?" itís difficult to hang on through chapter after chapter.
Even after the novel settles primarily into a third person narrative, the phone conversations are mind-boggling obstacles. Only one side of the conversation is presented to the reader, but each sentence is given a new line. It took five tries to see that only one out of the two conversants, to which the apparently not-so-omniscient narrator is privy, was recorded.
Scotland Yard takes its time getting involved. Only after several weeks go by and two bodies turn up does the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, or copper as he likes to call himself, decide an interview with former associates and family of the escapee/victims might help. Still, over coffee and Guinness, the chief and his subordinate pine for a break in the case for another month or so. In between tetes a tetes with his detective sergeant, the chief hangs around with his new tenant, Lindsay, shopping for antique china decanters for his mother.
Lindsay is a curious character; an ingenuous law school graduate who is genuinely surprised and dismayed at the age of the buildings in England, some of which she thinks might be 100 years old. Just wait until she visits Stonehenge.
Inconsistencies and illogic abound. The most abrupt input of data occurs when an acquaintance, early in the book, casually asks about Lindsayís twin, Liz. Lindsayís unexpected response? "She is really doing well after her last surgery. The brain tumor seems to have been stopped by the gamma knife... The thought of losing her is unthinkable and particularly for her 12-year old daughter." Much later in the book this conversation about the gamma knife surgery on 25-year old Liz is repeated nearly verbatim although Lindsayís preteen niece is never mentioned again. The inconsistencies, poor grammar, cardboard cutout characters and gaps in research equal a book with little substance and no clues to follow. Ultimately, world-renowned Scotland Yard takes an unintentional beating from this novel, as will any one brave enough to read it.
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