Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Perfect CrimeA Perfect Crime by Peter Abrahams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have recently embarked on a project to reread and review some of the mystery/suspense/detective novels that I found outstanding when I read them for the first time (between late 1960s and early 2000s). Double letter 'A' makes a good beginning: "A Perfect Crime" by Peter Abrahams. When I first read the novel about 10 years ago, the masterfully clever plot made a huge impression on me (at that time, its rating would be at least four and a half stars out of five). As a result I have read almost all books by Mr. Abrahams, and quite liked most of them.

Francie, Roger's wife, sleeps with Ned, the husband of Anna, who becomes Francie's tennis partner. Francie admires Anna, and having no children herself she adores her daughter, Em(ma). This sounds like the worst kind of tripe from daytime TV soaps. Indeed, the first sixty or so pages balance on the edge between literature and drivel. Mr. Abrahams' writing saves the day. The characters are portrayed vividly and they come through as real and interesting people. The author is a keen observer of human behavior and a skillful interpreter of psychology.

The set-up is completed about page 70 and the plot takes off. Roger concocts a plan to commit a perfect crime and get rid of his unfaithful wife before she divorces him. From this moment to almost the very end, the novel is riveting. The botched burglary scenes, though a little gruesome, are some of the most hilarious in my memory. Also, anyone with experience in academia will be amused by the portrayal of Roger's infatuation with his own intellectual brilliance.

Mr. Abrahams' light touch, humor, and assured writing make the novel a pleasure to read. No, it is not a masterpiece of the genre that I used to think it was. It does not have much depth other than being psychologically realistic. Yet it certainly has one of the best constructed plots in the genre.

The novel falls into the grey area between three and four stars. 'Tis the season to be generous, so I am rounding my rating up

Three and a half stars.

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