A simple, fabled premisethe existence of a Fountain of Youthsupports this modest suspenser from Clifford (Final Argument). The age-conquering waters here flow in a spring located thousands of feet above Aspen, Colo., their existence known only by the several hundred denizens of the town of Springhill. To avoid arousing the suspicion of outsiders, the townsfolk have entered into a pact to die voluntarily at the age of 100. The plot, which revolves around a murder trial arising from the discovery of the bodies of two of the Springfield dead, lays bare the inevitable kinks in so apparently practical and civilized a social contract. The intensely rural setting, reminiscent of that of The Shining or Deliverance, helps to cultivate a low-level tension, as do small but disturbing incidents like the disappearance of a cat or an anecdote about a woman's decapitation by avalanche. More melodramatic frights erupt at appropriate intervals. Irving drives his narrative from the fantastic to the realistic and back again, playing a game that's sure and steadybut one that's safe as well. Fans of risks in horror or suspense won't find them here. (Aug.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The hamlet of Springhill nestles high in the Colorado Rockies. Residents are bursting with health, but they guard a secret: they grow old very, very slowly...and they decide when to die. When Manhattan attorney Dennis Conway falls in love with Springhill's mayor, Sophie Henderson, he and his two children move in with her. He's charmed by her parents, Scott and Bibsy, and by Harry Parrot, the town drunk/artist, but curious about the Water Board, an entity that wields great power over the townsfolk. When his in-laws are accused of illegally assisting in the suicide of two friends, he agrees to represent Bibsy. The secret (easy to guess, but who cares?) is revealed, and Dennis endangers his family to save someone whose time is up. Irving (The Argument, S. & S., 1993) delivers a parable about aging and euthanasia that's spare of prose and thoroughly creepy; book discussion groups will love it. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/96.]Laurel A. Wilson, Alexandrian P.L, Mount Vernon, Ind.
Widower Dennis Conway, a New York attorney, meets widow Sophie Henderson in Aspen. They eventually marry, and Conway moves with his two young children to Sophie's home in Springhill, Colorado--a closely knit community of about 350 stunningly healthy, bright, and handsome people. When Sophie's parents are charged in the double murder of two of the town's elder citizens, Dennis takes the case. He suspects euthanasia, but an autopsy reveals that the victims were remarkably healthy. Further complicating matters are the close-mouthed attitudes of the townsfolk and the forensic evidence, which indicates the victims may have been considerably older than they seemed. Slowly Dennis begins to piece together the town's closely guarded secret. This is an extraordinarily entertaining and thoughtful combination of "Lost Horizons" and "Presumed Innocent". Not only is it a mystery--on at least two levels--but it poses troubling questions concerning prolonged life and its ultimate value.
A lumpy legal fantasy from an author more at home when he sticks to the courtroom (Final Argument, 1993, etc.).
After a whirlwind courtship, New York trial lawyer Dennis Conway gives up the rat race for the ardent embraces of Sophie Henderson, mayor of stratospheric Springhill, Colorado. Life is slower, the air is purer, the skiing is great, even if the natives sometimes lapse into the solipsistic patois of Springhill and the Conway children's beloved dog disappears without a trace one day. Then, out of the blue, Dennis's in-laws are arrested for murder. Bibsy Henderson's pillbox, filled with nitroglycerin and other telltale medications, is found on the scene of a killing- by-lethal-injection way up in the hillsthe double execution of old Henry and Susan Lovell (their dog has been killed too by a well-placed arrow)and in an unguarded moment when Dennis isn't present to caution her, Bibsy breaks down and blurts out something very like a confession to her husband and codefendant. So it's off to court, and the scenes fans of usually reliable trial veteran Irving will have been waiting for. But this time the courtroom proceedings fizzle: Both sides, unable to produce rabbits from their threadbare hats, merely recap familiar ground, and the obligatory bickering between Dennis and deputy D.A. Ray Boyd doesn't have any resonance. The only surprise comes when the trial trails off so soon, leaving in its wake a predictable verdict and 70 pages more to fill. The overextended epiloguean earth-shattering revelation from Sophie that alert readers will have foreseen by the end of chapter four, and a melodramatic, get-out-of-Dodge finale that pits Dennis against the elements and the suspiciously conspiratorial residents of Springhillfeels like a last-minute rewrite by a demented script doctor.
Perry Mason meets Lost Horizon. In this case, the horizon, like Shangri-la itself, should have stayed lost.