Sunday, September 21, 2003
"Clear and Convincing Proof" is the smoothest mystery novel to come along in quite a while.
The situation is complicated, but the reader glides through it with amazing ease and never has to go back and reread a bumpy passage. Author Kate Wilhelm makes it all clear and understandable.
However, solving the murder isn't so easy. The crime happened outdoors, but, just as in a locked-room mystery, it seems as though nobody could possibly have committed it. The reader has all the clues that lawyer and series regular Barbara Holloway has -- except one. She figures it out in a story that isn't bogged down with legal talk and procedures.
The real center of the story is a nonprofit rehabilitation clinic in Eugene, Ore. The wife of one of its two founders is terminally ill. Her shares will be left to their children, who will probably sell them to create a for-profit rehab clinic. The other founder and his wife have died; their son, a brilliant, cold-hearted and widely hated surgeon named David McIvey, wants to turn the clinic into a for-profit surgical facility.
McIvey is the murder victim, shot one rainy morning in the garden outside the clinic. Only a few people have a key to the clinic's outer gate.
The two main suspects are a physical therapist with a juvenile prison record for dealing drugs; and McIvey's widow, who has endured an unhappy marriage and kept a diary -- some pages of which disappear. The police are just waiting for one of them to make a misstep.