Suspects

Thomas Berger, Author William Morrow & Company $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-11925-6
Berger's 20th novel suffers from a surfeit of pages and a lack of story. There is probably enough material in this fairly straightforward murder mystery to satisfy the demands of a novella; but for a standard 256-page novel, the mystery, the characters and their histories are not nearly complex enough to sustain the narrative. To fill out the page count, far too many diluting diversions, descriptions and side stories have been introduced. The resulting concoction--described as a meditation on ""friendship, family loyalty, and the American dream""--is little more than a collection of run-of-the-mill human interest stories pasted onto what could have been a fine, workmanlike whodunit set in a typical American town. In the first two-thirds of the narrative, Berger calls the motives and actions of a large portion of his dramatis personae into question; but, because of his narrative perambulations, there is very little suspense or sense of urgency. In a novel more about police than about suspects, Berger (Robert Crews, 1994, etc.) gets caught up in the inner lives of a rather large cast of cameo characters and in arguments about the good old days before notions of individual rights and accountability came along and made life difficult for cops. Too caught up, as it happens, to be able to divert his readers from the fact that his red herring is far too red to escape notice. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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