Happy Policeman

Patricia Anthony, Author
Patricia Anthony, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-15-138478-5
Reviewed on: 08/29/1994
Release date: 09/01/1994
Mass Market Paperbound - 274 pages - 978-0-441-00321-1
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Anthony's fourth novel (after Cold Allies) details a half year in the life of DeWitt Dawson, the 40-ish police chief of Coomey, Tex. Though a one-stoplight town, Coomey is remarkable because, for six years, it's been circled by ``the Line''-a paisley band of light that blocks all light, heat, broadcast waves, people, animals and objects from entering or leaving town. Local opinion has it that a nuclear holocaust has wiped out the rest of Texas (and maybe the world) but that Coomey has been spared by the intervention of the Torku, diminutive English-speaking, Zen-preaching aliens from outer space. Only the Torku can cross the Line, which they do daily, in UPS trucks bearing enough groceries, gasoline, VCRs and Mary Kay cosmetics to keep the town civilized. Projected onto this wild whimsy are a thin murder mystery-two children are missing and their mom is found dead in the woods-and a more substantial domestic drama involving Dawson, his wife, their teenaged daughter, Dawson's homely but wholesome mistress and a sociopathic deputy sheriff. While investigating the murder, Dawson learns much about the mutability of family and societal relationships and his own capacity for physical and emotional violence. The climax of his personal story-when the alleged murderer must be tried and executed (or lynched) by a community that knows him intimately-coincides with the disappearance of the aliens and the town's reintegration into the world. As a sociological parable, this novel is a touch glib, but Anthony's sure pacing and character development make it enjoyable and rewarding nonetheless. (Sept.)
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