The Miami Herald’s Edna Buchanan is one of the finest crime reporters alive, as evidenced by her Pulitzer Prize. She is also one of the worst novelists around, as evidenced by Nobody Lives Forever, her first — and, we can only hope, last — fictional effort.
Imagine Sybil meets Nightmare on Elm Street, with a Duel in the Sun finish. Imagine eyes that are ”apple green and brazen.” Imagine this scene: ” ‘It’s inspection time, Sergeant. I want to see your weapon.’ Her small hands, like darting birds, were busy with his zipper and the swelling behind it.”
The old-school newspaper style — florid language combined with staccato rhythms — is unintentionally funny here. And there’s no place in this novel for Buchanan’s obsession with innocence and guilt (although she does recycle a few real-life stories from The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, her moving true-crime book).
Here’s the cast of characters: Laurel is a girl with a multiple-personality disorder. The personalities are: Alex, the vicious sociopath; Harriet, the Joan Crawford-esque homemaker; Jennifer, the thumb-sucking child; and Marilyn, the sex queen in a leather G-string. Then there is Dusty, a blond who works with and used to sleep with Rick, the doofus cop who is our hero, or as close to one as we’re going to get. Experienced mystery readers will know at once that Dusty is far too good-hearted to survive. Laurel, that barrel of laughs, is now sleeping with Rick, who is desperately searching for the killer terrorizing Miami, which means he leaves Laurel alone a lot, which is when Alex comes out to play. Incidentally, I am revealing no surprises: The reader is tipped to Laurel’s little problem at the beginning.
What amusement this book has to offer comes from imagining who could star as Laurel in the Great Bad Made-for-TV movie that Nobody Lives Forever virtually begs to be made into. Debbie Gibson, maybe? D