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The Abortionist's Daughter
is a murder mystery set in wintertime Colorado. Diana Duprey, a doctor who
runs a family planning clinic, is found dead at home. Her husband, Frank
Thompson, the local DA, refuses to account for his activities during the time
of the murder, although the reader knows that he didn't do it. Frank is the
police's main suspect, and the suspense comes from whether he will be falsely
charged. Diana's daughter Megan who attends a nearby university argued with
her mother that morning, but she has a rock solid alibi. Family friends
suspect that the local fundamentalist Christians who had made death threats
before. Everyone knows everyone else in this town, and this high profile crime
will be national news. The police team is composed of Ernie and Huck, who have
to treat carefully.
As a whodunit, Hyde's novel is
rather disappointing. There is only one character who really has the
psychological profile to commit murder, and so there's not much mystery about
the culprit. The novel is far more interesting as a portrait of a family that
turns out to have plenty of problems. We learn of Frank's affair, the effect
of the death of Frank and Diana's son several years ago, Diana's use of drugs, the
long disagreements about how to raise Megan, and the difficulty that Megan had
with Bill, her long-term high school boyfriend, after she broke up with him.
We also get to see the dynamics of the town, with plenty of rumors and
surprising alliances. Frank and Diana's marriage is complicated, and as the
details of the past unfold we start to see that both of them were living under
great stress. Megan, despite being the character of the title, is not a very sympathetic
or interesting person, and one of the difficulties for the novel is sustaining
the reader's concern for her welfare.
The novel is written well, fast
paced and crisply worded. The unabridged audiobook is read by Beth McDonald,
who has a commanding range of intonation, and the performance is a pleasure to
hear. Occasionally, the plot takes some rather unlikely twists, and it verges
on the melodramatic. As a commentary on modern family life, the state of the
abortion debate, or motives for murder, the story is not particularly
illuminating. So The Abortionist's Daughter is just a notch above
standard crime novels, but it is entertaining.
© 2006 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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