Picks and Pans Review: The Mcguffin

updated 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by John Bowen

Amusing, cynical and suspenseful, this novel is narrated by a film reviewer for a small-circulation British weekly called the Radical. Paul Hatcher is divorced and in his 40s; he lives alone in an attic apartment facing back gardens and a house across the way. While washing his dishes at the sink, he sees an elderly neighbor sitting in her parlor with a large dog and a young "woman" who clearly is a man dressed as a woman. The old lady looks frightened, and Hatcher decides he must do something about this strange scene—that's "the McGuffin" of the title, a tag used by Hitchcock for any device that triggers the action in a story. This offbeat beginning becomes a lurid tale of attempted blackmail, and a story of men with the power to override the police. The McGuffin has such a devious plot it would be a shame to give it away. There are lots of references to movies. (Any resemblance to Rear Window is not coincidental.) While much of the story is played for lightness, this novel is X-rated—the sex is graphic, the crimes are hideous, as are many of the characters who want to kill Hatcher. Author of five other works, Bowen has produced a most original and entertaining piece of fiction. (Atlantic Monthly Press, $13.95)

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