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ON THE EDGE
by Peter Lovesey
Soho, November 2002
204 pages
$12.00
ISBN: 1569473099


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This mystery novel, ON THE EDGE, has been filmed as a TV show due to be shown in the U.S. on PBS in summer 2003. It was shown in England late last year with excellent reviews.

As for the book, they don't come much better. Rose and Antonia worked together in the women's RAF auxillary in 1941, but when they meet accidently in London in 1946 they hardly recognize each other. They compare notes. Rose married that dashing wing commander, who as a husband turned into a lazy, boring, sometimes abusive nobody. Antonia married a rich widower of foreign origin who gave her everything except love, but she was able to find that elsewhere. Now she wants to go with her lover to America, but he won't take her as a married woman. Rose wishes her husband would have an accident and die. Antonia, the more sophisticated and bold one, wishes her husband would drop dead, too. Gradually they start daring to think the impossible. Antonia follows Rose's husband to his underground station, and, as a train nears, she gives him a push. Mercifully he dies instantly. Now Rose owes Antonia one.

Ah, you're thinking, Patricia Highsmith's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, only with two women conspirators instead of men. Far from it. Any similarity quickly ends. Antonia's husband, Hector, is quite tolerant and knows she has a boy friend, but they can still talk together. While Antonia is working on Rose to help her murder Hector, Antonia is also telling Hector that she plans to murder Rose. Rose knows too much and Antonia is afraid she might crack. Hector listens nonchalantly as Antonia discusses her plans for Rose. After all, murder is not strange to them, not after they did away with Hector's first wife in a swimming accident so they could marry. Antonia introduces Hector to Rose and the three have dinner together in a fancy restaurant. Although Antonia, as usual, finds her husband's talk boring, Rose thinks Hector is quite interesting, and she can't understand why Antonia wants to do away with him. Hector, too, enjoys talking to the attentive Rose, and he can't understand why Antonia wants to do away with her.

Ah, I'm thinking, Rose and Hector will compare notes and discover that Antonia has fatal plans for both of them. So naturally, think I, since they're quite compatible anyway, they'll decide to get rid of Antonia, marry, and live happily ever after.

All right, so I'm wrong, too. Lovesey's humorous murder plot is not quite that easy to figure out. Humorous? A summary review can't do justice to the delicate souffle lightheartedness of this story. At one point the two women drive around in Antonia's Bentley all day trying to dispose of a body as one "perfect" plan for disposal after another collapses. They're getting desperate, but, oh, "It's past teatime." Nothing will do but they must stop on a busy street and sit by an upstairs window at Yarner's while they have tea with sandwiches, crumpets, and chocolate cake. So it goes. Every time you think you have it figured out, you find you don't. The author keeps you guessing in a compellingly fast-paced, easy-reading story. Chalk up another fascinatingly interesting tale by this never-let-you-down master artist of unusual mysteries. Read it, you'll like it.

Reviewed by Eugene Aubrey Stratton, February 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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