cover image Mather


Joseph Monninger. Dutton Books, $20.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-447-2

There's a fine line between enigmatic and just plain half-baked, and Monninger (Incident at Potter's Bridge) crosses it in this story about a New Hampshire backwoodsman. Mather Edson lives in a cabin, having turned his back on a past that includes amateur wrestling. Peggy Ramsey, an old friend from a wealthy Park Avenue family, turns up, asking him to find her daughter, whom her husband has kidnapped in hopes of ransom. In prose more poached than hard-boiled, Monninger gives Peggy ``the look you sometimes see on women in laundromats.'' Motivations are widely scattered, e.g., the missing husband is either a moral crusader, a failed jock or a sadistic leech; Peggy is variously a tease, a lush or a concerned mother. Mather himself seems mostly just weird. His behavior is occasionally intriguing (he poses as a blind man in New York City), but he's not a convincing enough character to carry this sluggish tale. (June)