Picks and Pans Review: Murdering Mr. Monti

updated 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Judith Viorst

Brenda Kovner is a meddler. She's a lot of other things, too: wife to a pediatric surgeon who dons a gorilla suit to reassure his frightened patients, and mother to two grown sons—one of whom, she swears, looks just like Mel Gibson. She's a superior cook (try her death-by-chocolate cake), a syndicated advice columnist ("forgetting her birthday did not give your mother a stroke") and an adulteress (more about that later). But first and foremost, she's a meddler.

It's when the meddling turns to murder that Brenda runs into trouble. The object of her homicidal intentions: one Joseph Augustus Monti, "a pinky-ringed Italian psychopath in a $1,200 suit." Mr. Monti, who's almost as controlling as Brenda and who deplores the romance between his neurotic daughter Josephine and Brenda's Mel Gibson-clone son, also accuses the kid of stealing $150,000 from him. For this and other supposed crimes, Mr. Monti is bent on revenge.

Matters are complicated by the fact that Mr. Monti was once Brenda's lover. That is, he was one of three men she slept with in a single 24-hour period to get through a knotty midlife crisis.

The strength of Murdering Mr. Monti lies not in the narrative (many of the plot machinations have a paint-by-numbers quality and are not as funny as they need to be) or the characters, but in the writing. "There's nothing a woman could do in bed," writes Viorst, "that could possibly, in a million years, make her feel as guilty as eating four Clark Bars." (Simon & Schuster, $21)

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