Risking Elizabeth

Walter McCloskey, Author Simon & Schuster $22 (288p) ISBN 978-0-684-82434-5
Played out against a decadent background of masked balls, old money and family secrets in New Orleans, McCloskey's debut is drenched in atmosphere--unfortunately, at the expense of suspense. Just before Mardi Gras in 1981, widowed lawyer Harry Preston meets heiress Elizabeth Bennett at a party in his grandmother's historic French Quarter home. Elizabeth has just decided to leave her husband, Jack, a fortune hunter addicted to cocaine and to collecting Nazi memorabilia. Against his better judgment, Harry finds himself both her lawyer and her lover. No sooner has he disposed of her problem with a blackmailing mobster and some compromising photographs, than Harry receives a panicked phone call from Elizabeth summoning him to her home. When he arrives, he finds Elizabeth gone and Jack floating dead in the swimming pool. As Harry searches for Elizabeth, the task is complicated by the arrival of her estranged mother, intent on gaining control of Elizabeth's fortune by having her daughter declared incompetent--and the discovery that Elizabeth has abducted Harry's nine-year-old son, Ike. With the help of Elizabeth's friend Sally Montrose, Harry tracks Ike and Elizabeth to her grandfather's isolated island plantation--keeping just one step ahead of a pair of hired killers. There's a frightening confrontation on the island before Harry discovers who has masterminded the murderous plot to steal Elizabeth's inheritance. While McCloskey's engaging portrait of Crescent City society is first-rate, a surplus of characters and subplots with no real payoff create a very long wait for readers before he attends to the real business of murder. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Mass Market Paperbound - 306 pages - 978-0-425-16413-6
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-16387-3
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