Wild Justice

Margret Pierce, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-312-13216-3
Taking her cue from Francis Bacon (who said that ``revenge is a kind of wild justice''), Pierce (The House of Barrymore) fashions her first novel around a mother's clandestine effort to avenge her daughter's murder. Ned Kaplan, a top Washington, D.C., banking exec, holds a soiree at his ritzy Georgetown home. Among those attending is 20-year-old Mary Jane Jones, an employee who's smitten with him but intimidated by his guests. Desperate for Ned's attention, she throws a tantrum; Ned chides her as they stand atop a steep stairway. When Mary Jane claims she's pregnant by him, the banker flings her to her death on the granite patio below. It's not long before Mary Jane's mother, divorcee Theresa Foley, acting on hunches and thin evidence, suspects Ned of killing her daughter. When his longtime housekeeper quits, Theresa forges two letters of reference, bones up on etiquette and gets the job. Pierce sets a believable upper-crust scene, but she has less success with her main character, whose calculated vengeance so soon after her daughter's death is difficult to accept. Even readers who buy Theresa's suppression of rage will question the deus-ex-machina conclusion, which includes a slapdash police inquiry and intervention by a benevolent Washington lawyer. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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