Picks and Pans Review: Impostors

updated 07/07/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/07/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by George V. Higgins

"You let people operate in the dark, in secrecy, and they will follow their natural instincts. Which are to lie and cheat and steal and kill each other," says one of the characters in Higgins' sordid and lively new novel. A wealthy publisher named Mark Baldwin gets a visit from a district attorney because a TV star who has been arrested for murder is going to use his trial to talk about other crimes in the distant past. In the hope of preventing this exposure, which would implicate Baldwin in more than one awful misdeed and cover-up, the publisher hires a young woman—a paralegal and a former reporter—to look into a 23-year-old unsolved murder, some unethical land deals and other possible criminal acts. Higgins is at his best in the intricate plotting. Characters and the events in their lives overlap in fascinating fashion. The gay underground plays an important role and Baldwin takes the young woman to bed in order to manipulate his mistress. The author of The Friends of Eddie Coyle and 13 other books, Higgins is a Boston lawyer, and his lawyers—there are several of them in this book—are as usual quite rotten folks. As a matter of fact everyone in this novel is more or less corrupt. It's a bit of a surprise to find at the end how many of them get not what they deserve, but what they really want. Higgins' Boston is a dark, scary kind of place, but one that continues to be fun to read about. (Holt, $ 16.95)

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