Picks and Pans Review: Nobody Lives Forever

updated 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Edna Buchanan

Buchanan was long one of the country's premier crime reporters, having taken home a 1986 Pulitzer for her work on the Miami Herald. She spent 20 years on the police beat, walking away from that experience with a profound understanding for the way cops act and react to the stress of life lived behind a gun and a shield.

That understanding was best exemplified in The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, published in 1987, a collection of drug, death and detective tales set down Miami way. Now, Buchanan attempts to wrap her police smarts around the pages of a crime novel. The result is a flat-out flop.

Nobody Lives Forever begins with a murder on a moon-over-Miami night. The fatal shooting occurs one house down from the homicide detective assigned to the case, a naive hunk named Rick Barrish. While the body count eventually mounts to frightening levels and the cops work as many of the clues and angles as they can find, Buchanan all but points the finger in the direction of Barrish's live-in lady, Laurel Trevelyn, who turns out to be nothing less than your basic, homicidal, multiple-personality sex kitten.

The critical characters in Nobody Lives Forever, from field cops to felons, emerge as poorly drawn caricatures, exhibiting none of the flair and grit of the men and women who populate Buchanan's journalism. She does sprinkle her story with denizens of the South Florida netherworld—hookers, pimps, dealers, druggies and gung ho cops—and while these interludes occur too infrequently to mute the book's serious flaws, they are a welcome break from the tedious plot and prose.

The story lacks even the most basic elements of suspense; anyone who needs to read more than 25 pages to solve the mystery of Nobody Lives Forever should sign up for a refresher course in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 101. The best bet: Heed the title and wait for the next crime to be committed. (Random House, $I7.95)

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