Obsessed with uncovering the truth behind a corrupt sheriff’s power, journalist Sally Dawes enters a battle of wills with Cyrus Dolittle as the latter campaigns for a county election, but her own secrets threaten Sally’s life.
Barbed prose and characters as pungent as the smell of ozone during a lightning storm spark a timeworn plot in Klavan’s ( The Animal Hour) latest crime thriller. In upstate New York, local boss Sheriff Cyrus Dolittle has been under steady attack for years from Sally Dawes, the drab, 41-year-old bureau chief for the Daily Champion. But even while Sally tossed minor, irksome roadblocks in his way, Dolittle consolidated power through political favors and cover-ups. Now Dolittle’s candidate stands to win the County Executive election and Sally vows to stop him. At the same time, handsome Harvard grad Sid Merriwether, son of a director of the Champion ‘s parent company, signs on as a fledgling reporter and discovers a fire for journalism and a lust for plain, enigmatic Sally. Sally assigns Sid and his aesthetic opposite, troll-like Ernie Rumplemeyer, to investigate the death of a realtor with Dolittle connections. After the boyfriend of Dolittle’s teenaged daughter is killed by the sheriff’s men in a drug bust, the dead youth’s mobster boss talks to Merriwether and the enraged girl dishes out the dirt to Rumplemeyer. Dolittle and his henchman put some heavy pressure on Sally and her paper. Events careen to a menacingly quiet ending as Klavan builds excruciating tension in this character-driven plot without a cheap trick or false note.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
As editor and bureau chief of the Daily Champion, Sally Dawes enjoys the small-town conceits of Tyler, New York. But an important election is upcoming, and she needs to get the lowdown on her old nemesis, Sheriff Cyrus Dolittle, who is attempting to fill every open slot with his own men. The last thing Sally needs is to take on a new staff member–even drop-dead-handsome nonjournalist Sidney Merriwether, whose wealthy father has arranged the job as punishment for Sidney. Much to Sally’s dismay (and delight), Sidney is the spitting image of her old boyfriend. Not only that, but when real-estate attorney Billy Thimble is murdered and mafioso Vincent Scotti brought to trial, Merriwether proves invaluable–as a writer, researcher, and lover. Although the romance between hunky Sid and Sally, who is continually described as having an “old maid’s face,” seems a bit forced, two-time Edgar winner Klavan has penned a fast-paced, intricate mystery with unusual and memorable characters. – Eloise Kinney
The primal passions erupting in a small New York town depicted here by two-time Edgar winner Klavan (Animal Hour, 1993) gather with the force of a brush fire sweeping through dry grass. They are fueled by rebellion against the corrupt sheriff, Cyrus Doolittle. Doolittle handpicks local pols for top slots. He influences development. He won’t talk to the local press except through press releases. He is opposed only by a plain middle-aged journalist, Sally Dawes, bureau chief of the Daily Champion, who has been Doolittle’s nemesis for two decades ever since he killed his best friend and benefited from the murder of a seven-year-old girl. When the body of a drug-dabbling real estate lawyer floats up in the Hudson, Sally and her green new reporter, the patrician Henry Merriwether, begin to dig for fresh dirt. They also begin an affair, which threatens not only Henry’s marriage (to a black woman) but also Sally’s pristine reputation. Meanwhile, the aptly named Ernie Rumplemeyer, Sally’s most zealous newsie, manages to get an interview with Doolittle’s teenaged daughter–who has been confined to a mental institution (presided over by a doctor in the palm of Doolittle’s hand) after threatening to expose Big Daddy’s role in the killing of her punk boyfriend. What elevates Corruption above formula suspense is Klavan’s ability to get into the heads of diverse characters, ranging from the crude Doolittle (given to such thoughts as “I’ll squeeze his balls till his eyes fucking explode”) to the idealistic Merriwether. Doolittle’s thuggish undersheriff from the Bronx, Benoit, comes across as an almost cartoonish embodiment of venality and violence, but others, particularly Rumplemeyer, evoke pity and terror. A suspenseful, gritty look at what crawls under the apparently innocent surface of a small American town. Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.