Ellen Bray

Jane Julian, Author William Morrow & Company $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-06471-6
A vigorous opening glimpse of Cornish miners on the march for better pay and decent working conditions deteriorates into a run-of-the-mill 19th century romance. In addition, the real heroism of the men and women who are fighting cynical and rapacious mine-lords is vitiated by so much death, maiming and imprisonment that the reader's capacity for pity and involvement is strained. Even James Bryant, Ellen Bray's first lover, is whisked off to jail before we can discover what there is about him to attract this strong and beautiful young woman. When Dr. Robert Buchan appears to tend the miners, Ellen's heart melts instantly, her body with it, but Robert, who has political ambitions, afterwards repudiates her, and she bears a daughter, fruit of their one-night liaison, without his knowledge. Soon she is drawn into the fight for women's suffrage and becomes a fiery speaker for the cause. Eventually, Robert sees the error of his ways and Ellen's daughter is legitimized. Although time and place are authentically evoked, the novel is hampered by a vast canvas of unfinished characters and unresolved events. (August 25pNarrator Eddie Margolis, young drunk and dropout, finds the body of his friend Tony shot in an East Village tenement. Eddie flees and calls the cops anonymously, but he's tracked down by detective Murphy of the narcotics division, assigned to the case because Tony was an addict and maybe a dealer. Murphy has no leads and admits that a junkie's murder has low priority in the N.Y.P.D. Fighting his alcoholism, Eddie decides to find the killer. One possible lead is a punk gang leader called ""The Merk.'' Another is Tony's New Jersey family with Mob connections, led by Tony's near-senile father. When the Merk and a couple of thugs attack Eddie, the Merk is shot to death by a sniper. Eddie trails one of the Merk's punks to a Fifth Avenue penthouse, which leads to a posh Hampton estate and a smooth drug kingpin. Eventually, Eddie uncovers a multimillion-dollar real estate scam and hands Murphy the killers. Aside from good New York color, there's not much reality in this first novel. Eddie is a quixotic, unlikely figure whose wisecracking is redeemed only by his good nature. (August 28)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1986
Release date: 08/01/1986
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 576 pages - 978-0-7089-1656-8
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