Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Welcome to the Grave - Mary McMullen

First published 1979; cover shown is the 1981 Keyhole Crime (UK) paperback edition.

Harley Ross' highly successful career as a novelist just keeps getting better. He has plenty of money, a luxurious home and a young, beautiful lover. Nothing and nobody is allowed to disrupt his highly regimented writing schedule of 7am to 2pm. This is Harley's favourite time of day: he barricades himself in his study with coffee and cigarettes and tries to keep up with his typewriter. The towering man with the completely bald head and a "face like a gorilla" enjoys every aspect of his life.

Then Marta comes back. His estranged wife, dumped by the man she left Harley for two years ago, has run out of funds and decided Harley is her easiest option. Harley, who hadn't exactly been devastated when she left, is appalled that she dare show her face. He demands she turn right round and leave. But Marta has something on Harley, something that would ruin his career and reputation. Three years before, speeding home one dark, rainy night, Harley hit and killed a child running across the road. Panicking, he drove straight home... and let Marta deal with hiding the car and creating an alibi. If Harley kicks Marta out of the marital house, she'll start talking.

Marta's return creates a stir in the sleepy town of Mute, Connecticut, but no one is more shocked than Jill, Harley's mistress. After a hair pulling cat fight with Marta, Jill is banished from the house she thought of as hers and Harley's. But while Marta is determined to show everyone she means business, Jill isn't prepared to lose.

Harley is growing increasingly desperate, unhappy and angry. Since Marta's return he has been unable to write anything worth reading, and his hatred for her grows by the day. John McIndoe, Harley's agent, is shocked by the change in Harley's appearance, and after questioning Dove, the all-seeing young niece of Harley's housekeeper, he is certain that the anger-consumed Harley plans to kill his wife. But how can he stop a man who has already made up his mind?

Murder follows murder in this crime novel: three in a row, and not all are expected. The egotistical Harley was a great character, bald head and all.

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