A hotshot advertising executive, with his pretty wife and darling daughter in tow, arrives at their Westchester County home after a long drive from a summer place in Maine. The wife rushes into the house—and vanishes. The young ad exec, Ames Coryell, calls the police, but they’re of no help; to them, the natural corollary of a missing wife is a guilty husband.So Coryell races into town, where he puts his glib tongue and his ad agency to work. Rather than hire a private detective, he turns his fellow admen into a team of skip tracers, using their arts of persuasion and their media connections to cast a dragnet for his wife across Greater New York. These scenes, which send up Madison Avenue and the travesty that is “agency English” (a local patois in which ideas are perpetually being “run up a flagpole”), are the highlight of the novel. They hold echoes of Kenneth Fearing’s noir masterpiece The Big Clock (1946), and so does the tale’s chase and counter-chase plot. Although it lacks the poetic depth of the classic Fearing tale, this brisk little thriller does “meet the ball on the rise,” as one of Browne’s pitchmen might say.
HOWARD BROWNE. Thin Air (1954).