Wednesday, January 31

Well Bred and Dead by Catherine O'Connell

Review by Gloria Feit 


The first page of Well Bred and Dead, Catherine O'Connell's second published novel, had this reader intrigued, describing as it does our protagonist, Pauline Cook, gagged and bound on her bed in the luxurious penthouse apartment on the Gold Coast of Chicago, her captors having left her to die.  Pauline, described as a "devastatingly elegant and wealthy widow,'' [although known to very few to be in much more straitened circumstances just lately], can trace her current predicament to her close friendship with Ethan Campbell, a social columnist and author of biographies of famous socialites, and the fact of his shocking death, an apparent suicide.  Pauline was the one who discovered the body and has now had to pay for his funeral when no close relatives can be found.  Pauline soon finds that there was much sh e didn't know about Ethan, her best friend for over five years, including perhaps his real identify when multiple birth certificates are found among his things.  As Pauline says, it is incredible "how little we know those we think we know best."  The mystery only intensifies as her investigation gleans some further tidbits of information, which only leads to further efforts to get to the truth.


The writing is for the most part light-hearted, witty and fast-paced, the view afforded by the author into the world of the social elite is a wry and interesting one, though it is almost by definition a superficial vista.  Some of the attitudes are mildly offensive, but these are reflective of the times and strata.  And then, of course, we get to the harrowing scene described in the prologue, and its aftermath, and Pauline has to find a way not to become one who is, um, well bred and dead.  A quick and enjoyable read.



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