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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch

In this issue:

Books: Laura Haywood reviews the 14th installment in the Kate Fansler series by Amanda Cross, The Edge of Doom.

And Consider This: Stephen Spielberg's popular film, Catch Me If You Can, evokes memories of a con man grandfather. Bloomsbury, the publishers of the Harry Potter series released a few tidbits from the new book.


by Laura Haywood

The Edge of Doom
By Amanda Cross
Ballantine Books. 263 pages.

I've read all fourteen of Amanda Cross's mysteries and have enjoyed them very much. Her central character and detective, Kate Fansler, is an interesting woman a college professor who gets into interesting situations. Cross plots well and writes satisfying endings. But I have to admit that one reason that causes me to enjoy Cross's books would probably not please the author. It's the non-conversational dialogue she writes. It isn't stilted, exactly. It's just too perfect in terms of word choice and punctuation. Consider this exchange from her latest novel, The Edge of Doom:

"But am I really ready to believe which I never had to do before that it is only spermatozoa that made me what I am today?"

"Probably. And yesterday, and all the days before that. Is the truth of your paternal heritage so disturbing, and, if so, why?"

"I don't know, Kate said.

"I do. You have long prided yourself, with justification, on breaking away from every opportunity to be a self-satisfied, conventional, right-wing, wealthy, socially established Fansler. Now it turns out, you don't get any credit, or not much. It all goes to Jay whom I insist on meeting in the very near future."

As I read her books, I keep wondering if Cross who is actually Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities Emerita at Columbia University talks this way herself. Cross has no ear for voice all of her characters speak with this same precision, even in moments of stress.

And Cross provides plenty of stress in The Edge of Doom. The book opens with word from one of her brothers that Kate may have been fathered by someone other than her mother's husband. A man calling himself Jason (Jay) Ebenezer Smith has surfaced with DNA evidence that he is Kate's father. Despite her repudiation of the Fansler values, Kate has had no hint that her mother was anything but the ultra-conventional matriarch of the family and is more than a bit disturbed by the news.

Strained meetings between father and daughter are followed by Jay's disappearance. Kate's husband, Reed (one cannot imagine Kate married to someone named Joe), a former district attorney, undertakes an investigation and uncovers a number of mysteries about Jay. It appears that Jay has been in the Witness Protection Program, though Reed is unable to find out if Jay was actually a witness to a crime or a criminal who testified about accomplices. Having left the program, he's put himself and Kate in danger. The second half of the book picks up the pace nicely.

The Edge of Doom isn't Cross's strongest work, but it's enjoyable light reading, and there's always that professorial dialogue to add spice.

And Consider This, Cinema and a Book Preview >>>



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©Laura Haywood for SeniorWomenWeb

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