Elegant Sinners

Terry Ward Tucker, Author Summerhouse Press $21.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-887714-15-0
Inconsistent characterization muddles Tucker's mannered soap opera of a first novel (after the nonfiction Smart Women At Work) about a Boston English professor and his highly neurotic, manipulative wife who quit their jobs and resettle in Charleston, S.C., where they find themselves caught up in a murder plot. A self-confessed ""expert liar"" and would-be ghostwriter, narrator Arlena Prince dulls her ""intense need to live on the edge"" with booze and prescription downers, while her shallow, status-conscious husband, Stuart, tries to drum up work as a consultant. When rich, tyrannical Fanny Peregrine hires Arlena to coauthor her roman a clef of Charleston society,Fanny's jealous potential heirs conspire to discredit Arlena and eventually frame her for Fanny's murder. As the conspiracy widens (at one point the Princes are kidnapped and forced to undergo a voodoo ceremony), Arlena musters enough strength of character to face her accusers, but the Princes' marriage crumbles in the face of their ordeal. Neither the made-for-TV setting nor the unattractive cast is convincing. While Arlena bounces back and forth between calculating perpetrator and innocent victim, Stuart helps set her up for murder, and Tucker never tells us why. In rehab, Arlena claims that ""`females are born maudlin"": as she proves throughout this tear-stained and pretentious tale, at least some fictional females are. Rights: IMG Bach Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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