Picks and Pans Review: The Mandeville Talent

updated 02/03/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/03/1992 01:00AM

by George V. Higgins

Jim Mandeville has been dead for 23 years, murdered inside his own bank with his own shotgun in the hour before dawn. The killer's name, whereabouts and motives were buried alongside him in the soft dirt of the small New England town he lived in. The murder remains swallowed by silence until Joe Corey, a relocated New York corporate lawyer, and his wife, Jill, move to Shropshire, Mass.

For Jill, the move is a homecoming of sorts—Jim Mandeville was her grandfather. On the other hand, Joe Corey's reasons for coming to Shropshire and reopening the murder investigation have little to do with family ties and everything to do with overcoming a mid-life career depression.

As Corey begins to piece the 23-year-old puzzle together, he is helped willingly and unwillingly by a couple of Shropshire old-timers while fighting off the icy stares and empty shrugs of most of the town's residents. It takes little time for Corey to figure greed as the force behind the slaying.

In the fictional universe of George V. Higgins, no one is not guilty. Talent proves this rule with tension, pace and drama equal to the best of Higgins's novels (Penance for Jerry Kennedy and The Friends of Eddie Coyle). Higgins unearths deeply buried secrets one by one until all the sinister and deadly dealings of Jim Mandeville and the town of Shropshire lie exposed.

Higgins presents sharp miniportraits of troubled humans facing the barrenness of hard choices. They are led to their destiny by a determined and driven Joe Corey, out to solve a mystery everyone wants left alone. The Mandeville Talent is a prime-time whodunit, providing heat for the long winter nights ahead. (Henry Holt, $19.95)

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