Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark

This is an odd book. It's short and sharp, which both are great attributes and which both are very Muriel Spark. But it's unusual.

Two men separately start seeing a psychiatrist in Paris, Dr. Wolf. They both claim to be Lord Lucan, who murdered his nanny and nearly murdered his wife in London in the 1970s and escaped. They try to blackmail Dr. Wolf by revealing that she is really Beate Pappenheim, a German fake stigmatic who defrauded hundreds of people and is also on the run. Meanwhile, the daughter of an old friend of Lucan's decides to try to write a book on him and is off on the hunt, to see if she can find him if he is still alive. Dr. Wolf abruptly leaves, with no word to her longtime boyfriend, to figure out the Lucans' story and how she will deal with them.

How everything gets sorted is both odd and finely plotted. It is also rather abrupt and the story of the daughter looking for Lucan is left floating in the wind somewhat. There are a lot of interesting characters but they aren't all fully developed. For instance several of Dr. Wolf's patients come to see her boyfriend, looking for her. They are all strange and intriguing and yet most have just one scene, or two at the most.

This book, while interesting, felt lifeless. It had no soul. It felt like perhaps it was a writing exercise for the author. It still had some great lines and the characters were brilliant, and it was quite a feat to take these two true (really!) odd mysteries and make them intersect. But I didn't connect with anyone in the story, found them all fairly awful in fact, and even though it was short and I should have zipped through it, I found it instead easy to put down. If you are a fan of Ms. Spark, it's a worthy little morsel to chew on, but it's not up to the standards of her great novels.

I got this book at Julia's Coffee, the used bookstore attached to Habitat for Humanity.

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