Final Viewing: A Bill Hawley Undertaking

Leo Axler, Author Berkley Trade Pub $4.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-425-14244-8
When Chester Scholtz's bereaved widow, Lydia, rings the bell at the Hawley Funeral Home, she is not just seeking Bill Hawley's services as an undertaker. She wants him to investigate the embarrassing circumstances of her 70-year-old husband's death in a cheap motel, reported to the police by an exotic dancer. Thus the premise of this unevenly paced novel, the first of a projected series featuring funeral director and amateur PI Hawley. Hawley is more a walking basket case than a hero. He accepts Mrs. Scholtz's assignment, seeing it as a chance to bolster his fragile self-image, which, along with an addictive personality and a crushing burden of guilt at having caused a crippling accident, is part of a trio of psychological handicaps. Hawley's investigation reveals that Scholtz had recently entered a nursing home to convalesce from a broken hip but was not sick at all. Readers will not be surprised to learn his doctor helped Scholtz feign illness in order to con a resident of the nursing home. After Hawley interviews all the suspects, the solution seems at hand, but then another murder throws Hawley's conjectures off base again. Although this effort is marred by clumsy writing, numerous plot reversals, lengthy asides and some fairly obvious plot developments, there is a final, slam-bang chase. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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