Elmer

Gerard Menuhin, Author Hutchinson Radius $0 (382p) ISBN 978-0-09-159900-3
This can't be a mystery, because the reader knows from page one that Elmer Hampden is the killer. And it's not exactly a love story, since of the two main characters, the man despises relationships and the woman is a lesbian. It's not really a thriller either, because there's very little skulking about; even though Elmer is a contract killer, he does his job in routine fashion. While alternately funny, exciting, intriguing and disturbing, this first novel is less a tour de force than a game, albeit a very well-written one. Menuhin plays with the reader, setting up his characters in situations where only one of two things can happen, and then, miraculously, he allows both to happen, or neither, or some third, bizarre alternative takes place, surprising the reader completely. Although sometimes this breeds frustration, Menuhin's supple prose (as well as the story's sex, violence and European settings) will encourage readers to press on. Unfortunately, the novel doesn't end so much as stop, as though Menuhin simply got tired. Perhaps his clever game-playing created too many loose ends to be tied, or possibly his ultimate joke is to trick the reader out of an ending. Whatever the reason, the inconclusive finish is a shame because it detracts from an otherwise exciting, funny and effective novel. (November)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1985
Release date: 01/01/1985
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