Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Change of Heart - Helen McCloy

First published 1973; cover shown is the defaced 1974 Dell Books (USA) paperback edition. Cover art by Robert McGinnis. 219 pages.

Another book that should not be judged by its cover: the McGinnis cover brings to mind a Gothic novel, but this is purely a mystery.

As teenagers, schoolmates Lee and Laurie had made a pact to meet at New York's Crane Club on the one day of the year when they would both be 50 years old. Fast forward 36 years, and Lee makes the journey to the Crane Club, now a dingy café. He hasn't heard from Laurie since the war, and isn't expecting to see him.

But against all odds the two meet, and before the night is out Laurie, now a jewel thief, has talked Lee into a crazy adventure which results in a man being murdered, Lee suffering a paralysing stroke, and Laurie disappearing.

Girzel, Lee's daughter, takes over her father's interpreting job at her cousin Justin's corporation while Lee recuperates in hospital. Trying to piece together the mystery surrounding her father's illness, Girzel uncovers a shocking fact: Laurie died in the war. So who did her father meet with on that fatal night?

McCloy seemed to be trying to do too much with this novel, which is essentially quite a cliched mystery. She threw in meditations on life, debates on Freudian beliefs, the greed of big business, discussions on Russian/American relations, and even insanity caused by anti-Semitism.

The revealing of the mystery itself took place in one packed chapter, in which McCloy tied up every loose end far too quickly and easily.

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