Monday, August 27, 2007

The Bad-News Man - Mary McMullen

First published 1986; cover shown is the 1987 Jove Books (USA) paperback edition. Cover art by Sally Vitsky. 180 pages.

Mary McMullen is one of my top 10 mystery writers, but I'm starting to realise that her later novels are lacking the certain something that made her earlier work so special.

The Bad-News Man was first published in the year McMullen died, and comes across more as a character study than a murder mystery. May Lockett, a comfortably plump and rosy cheeked 50-something woman, manages The Lilacs, a very genteel and upmarket accommodation centre in Provincetown. May arrived at The Lilacs 25 years ago, soon after leaving Cosmo Fane, her cheating, abusive husband.

When said husband arrives in town and realises his long-lost wife has recently inherited The Lilacs - a million-dollar estate - he believes it is the solution to the mess that is his life. With a woman stashed in every city waiting for a wedding ring, a failed career in orchestral music and the local drug lord following his every move, Cosmo has nothing to lose - and a new, glamorous life to gain.

But May doesn't want Cosmo back in her life, and she's also not prepared to face the consequences Cosmo has threatened her with if she says no. So with murder in her mind she steals a pistol from a resident of The Lilacs and arranges to meet Cosmo in a deserted house late at night. It all sounded very suspicious to me, but Cosmo doesn't suspect a thing. He walks into her trap... and before the night is out, he'll be dead - but not by May's hand.

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