Sidney Sheldon has distinguished himself from other schlockmeisters of his generation by his predilection for complicated plots. There is always some trickery in a Sheldon novel, whether it's the rigging of chess games, the falsifying of identities or the bilking of someone's money or jewels. Memories of Midnight, a "completely independent novel" but nonetheless a sequel to The Other Side of Midnight, deals in another scam: Constantin "Costa" Demeris, a Greek shipping tycoon, has saved the life of the wife of his mistress's lover only so that he may have the pleasure of wooing—and then killing—her. Along the way, he outsmarts a minor thug who tries to blackmail him into transporting drugs, does away with (or so it seems) a powerful lawyer and toys with his long-suffering wife and her vengeful brother. Until the end. it seems that Costa will succeed; only in the last pages do we see how the scammer has ultimately been outscammed.
But this is not real life, and even a neophyte Sheldon-ian must suspect that such an evil man will never be allowed to triumph over decent people. Sheldon loads the story with enough tricks and countertricks that even a skeptical reader begins to wonder how Costa will be brought to justice. As adventure plots go. this one—full of near-' death escapes, staged suicides and red herrings—isn't all bad. But Sheldon should be ashamed for bringing back one character he'd told us earlier was dead.
The writing is vintage Sheldon. Our heroine is an amnesiac who barely remembers her name, but she is well acquainted with clichés: "I'm all dressed up with no place to go," she muses. Her memory doesn't eventually return; it comes "nagging at the corners of her mind."
Still, sophisticated prose is hardly the point. This is the kind of book that keeps readers turning pages and writers smiling all the way to meetings with miniseries producers. (Morrow. $21.95)