cover image Easeful Death

Easeful Death

Ralph M. McInerny. Anthem, $19.95 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12131-9

A bizarre identity switch kicks off this intriguing psychological drama by the author of the Father Dowling mystery series. Raunchy, alcoholic ``retired'' poet Howard Webster is holed up in his Wisconsin farmhouse re-wooing his muse when a vagrant hangs himself in the barn. By burning the body on a bonfire and writing a suicide poem, Webster convinces everyone that he has died and spends the next two years anonymously in Sardinia. His larcenous daughter Felicia establishes the Webster Foundation, which accrues unexpected (but inaccessible) wealth when the curator ``discovers'' a Webster manuscript that becomes a huge posthumous success. Felicia's husband seeks a way out of vast debts incurred with pie-in-the-sky business schemes, while Webster's third (divorced) wife is persuaded to abet a plot to ``discover'' still more manuscripts. Truth-seekers among the shady types are private investigator Philip Knight and his enormously fat brother Roger, computer genius and ardent admirer of Webster's poetry. After two more deaths, numerous thefts and a kind of reverse counterfeiting, a deus ex machina wraps things up satisfactorily. (Oct.)