Sunday, October 19, 2014

William De Andrea: Killed on the Rocks, 1990

William De Andrea was born July 1, 1952 in Port Chester, New York. After studying in the USA, he worked as a journalist and writer, staying in Europe, in Paris and London. Later, when he settled again in the USA, he lived until his death in 1996, in Connecticut, in Litchfield County. He wrote several series of novels: the one with Matt Cobb who gave him success, he inserted his own experience in a major American television network; that of Niccolo Benedetti was also intended as a tribute to Nero Wolfe of which he was always a fan; Series Clifford Driscoll instead ventured into the spy genre, while the one with Lobo Black / Quinn Booker took the moves in the Old West.
De Andrea is remembered for being a great writer, winner of three Edgar.
Killed on the Rocks is the seventh novel by Matt Cobb, and his only Locked Room.
Matt Cobb is the vice president of a network, the NTA, which is going out of hand. As soon as one is the spread of an imminent bid for Dost to buy the network, network executives come into fibrillation: they want to understand what it seeks in reality the offer that Dost is going to do. In fact, someone who plots in the shadows, sent an anonymous letter in which  pleads to do everything in order a the NTA not be sold to billionaire, as the anonymous sender claims that he is crazy.
At this point, Tom Falzet, the president of the network relies on Cobb, in order to find out what lies beneath: Matt will accompany the network executives at the estate of Dost to  Adirondacks, on the rocky mountains, owned by billionaire, and there they will discuss about the matter.
The chalet has been refurbished by the same billionaire who has spared no expense, and entrusted himself to the taste of his wife Aranda, to impress the hosts. In addition to his wife, there’s, together with the billionaire, his son Barry. Dost to the question of Cobb, denies that he is crazy and indeed he moves the finger  toward someone who in the shadows is doing everything possible to mess up his offer. In fact, many would not want the Network, also in a bad way, do not pass out of hand.
Before dinner, Cobb knows Jack Bromhead, friend and right hand man of Dost. He’s a kind cowboy suit with a flashy tie a string, enclosed by a turquoise, which would be expected wore boots matched to the dress. And instead, Jack wears stockings by walking, connected to the ankle, due to a distortion: in fact he limps.
Now Jack manages sympathetic, especially since he defends his friend. Not so nice instead appears to him the son of Dost, who thinks that Cobb wants subtract, after the sale of the network, the favor of the father. Is not the only sour note of the evening, a Rocky Point: after the sumptuous dinner that Gabby has organized for his hosts , Cobb was invited by Charles Wilbeforce, Head of the Legal Department of the Network, to come out from the chalet, in the cold , because he has to rely on one thing. Cobb, also locates outside Carol Coretti, assistant Wilbeforce who reveals how the Dost’s wife has tried to lure her, making an explicit offer of sex, since she, Carol, is a lesbian. Cobb recommends the two to pretend nothing has happened, because I do not know how to get on: Aranda is the third wife of Gabb, since the first and dead, and from the second he got divorced.
After he had fallen into a deep sleep, Cobb has awakened, as other guests by a piercing cry: someone found a body in the snow, about forty paces from the chalet: Dost is dead. The blood stains the snow. All around an expanse of pristine, free of fingerprints. And a line from Fisherman: why would there be between the mountains, on that expanse of snow, near the corpse of Dost a line fisherman, is something that he does not currently understand.

After finding Bromhead also awake, and sent him to wake up the son of a billionaire, Cobb rooms on the fifth floor of the house in the mountains, because he would understand how it was possible that someone could kill Dost without leaving fingerprints: he wants to look at the scene of the crime from above. But he runs into the son of Dost, who thinks he was who killed the father: beside himself, he unleashes a violent kick to the head of Matt, before he goes on.
When Cobb, staggering, unable to go down, the whole gang is reunited. Including the driver of the billionaire, whom he learns to be an officer of the local police and as such, he represents, albeit in a non-professional capacity, the Justice at Rocky Point.
Cobb first learns from Bromhead that Aranda while inheriting  twenty million dollars would have nothing to gain from the death of her husband, because if he were alive she would forever the good life, and not only for a few years, given that her expectation of living is very high and twenty million dollars in his case would be gone in less than no time; he also knows that the bulk of the inheritance will go to the son, unless something that he, Jack, inherits.
In short, about candidates to be referred to as murderess, there are not a few, including a suspect butler and another suspicious housekeeper.
To conduct investigations is the agent Ingersoll, who soon has to rely on the acumen by Cobb. The hostile attitude of Barry Dost, who also is unleashed against the agent breaking his nose, it would be explained in the form of an overreaction, but a mysterious appearance of ghost of Gabby Dost on the TV in his home directs the investigations: the ghost of victim accuses his son about something. The stepmother, who was caught by surprise by the ghost appearance, faints. Barry runs away until, madman, is confronted Cobb and tries to kill him, believing he is part of a mysterious conspiracy against him, and was in turn killed by Bromhead. But he was really the murderer? Or did the real killer set things up so that the investigation would take the wrong direction?
Cobb will understand how was committed the murder of Gabby Dost, like the appearance on the television can be traced back to a few basics of cable transmission, and which are of a fishing line and a fishing rod, and even a metal coat hanger . And Cobb will  nail the real murderer.
Good novel by De Andrea, however,it  holds the rhythm to a certain point: the fact is that De Andrea does not involve many potential murderers, restricted to three or four people. And what's more, he says too much, and too soon he gets to die the son of the victim and at the same time, he declars, without even too much subterfuge, that the murderer could be another. For more he makes sure that Cobb accuse a certain person scoring the false transmission, and then directs the attention towards him/her: if it was a clever ruse to hide the real one, and then get a final effect, it would be a good thing; but since that person ends up being responsible, it is clear that he/she was  to kill or he/she was helped by someone. And then the syllogism leads as a result to identify the real murderer, and also the motive.
The method used for the variation of the snowy meadow, about the Locked Room, I think it could refer to a famous story by Joseph Commings, Serenade to a Killer, if not directly, at least indirectly: in fact, they both use the cables as a means to get to the place of discovery the corpse, although in the case of De Andrea, is the body that is moved from the site of the murder to the site of finding, while in the case of Commings is directly the murderer who uses the cable as a way to reach the scene of the murder overcoming the snowy field, and then return by the same route. Cute is also the method of explaining the ghostly apparition.
Beyond this, a novel that could have had a very different voltage, if he had not too great hurry to finish it.
Pietro De Palma

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