LENORE GLEN OFFORD. My True Love Lies (1947).

12 Oct

For a novel set in an urban art colony, Offord’s narrative is surprisingly artless. True, its setting hold high appeal: The otherworldly, semi-enclosed milieu of an art school perched on San Francisco’s Russian Hill is a fine place for a homicide. Moreover, a potent mystery lurks within this tale, and it comes to the fore in the book’s final pages. MyTrueLove.jpgBy then, though, Offord has dragged a slew of red herrings across a clumsily blazed trail, and the reader hardly cares what happens next. The murder victim is Chester Vernet, a successful prosecutor turned successful defense attorney. Could the person who bludgeoned him to death hail from his professional past (a wrongly or not-so-wrongly convicted felon, for example)? Or could the motive for killing Vernet stem from his recent marriage to Anne Tannehill, a serenely beautiful sculptor at the school whom all men seem to covet and whom other women seem to envy? Inspector Butch Geraghty, a cagy Irishman brought in from central casting, leads the hunt for answers. But the focus of attention throughout is on Noel Bruce, a winsome heroine in the romantic-suspense tradition. Inevitably, and disappointingly, the question of “Will she land him?”—“him” being Miles Coree, a dashing Navy lieutenant and a prime suspect—takes on greater dramatic weight than the question of “Who done it?”

[ADDENDUM: I read this book in its Dell Mapback edition, the cover of which appears above. The back-cover map offers a rough conjecture as to the location of Offord’s fictitious Sherwin Art School, placing it closer to the Pacific Heights neighborhood than to Russian Hill. But I suspect that Offord drew inspiration for her setting from the California School of Fine Arts, which in the 1940s occupied a striking Spanish Colonial building at 800 Chestnut Street. The building is still there, and so is the school (now called the San Francisco Art Institute), and I’ve walked by it a few times, always admiring its open-air courtyard and its glorious bay-view location. It is, as I wrote, not a bad place at all for a murder.]

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Posted by on October 12, 2010 in American, Golden Age, Novel


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