Saturday, October 19, 2019

77. We All Killed Grandma by Fredric Brown

I found this at the same sidewalk sale at Port de Tête, where I found The Stolen Documents.  I was kind of looking forward to this book as I haven't read one by Fredric Brown in quite some time.  He can be very clever and inventive and I was looking forward to seeing how he handled what looked like a murder mystery from the cover. 

The story starts out with the protagonist, Rod, going to see a woman that somebody advised him against seeing.  We soon learn that he has recently suffered from amnesia and the woman he is going to see is his ex-wife.  We learn further that his grandmother was murdered, shot by a burglar and that Rod had discovered her body.  Some shock at finding her body completely knocked out his memory.  The rest of the book is him putting the pieces of his life back together in his mind and by extension trying to figure out what happened on the night of the murder.

The first half of the book reminded me a lot of Donald Westlake's Memory. It captures a similar lost feeling, though the difference here is that while Rod has lost all his personal memories, his personality and skills have not diminished any.  Rod cannot accept the burglar story and even suspects that he himself may well be the person who murdered his grandmother.  He has no memory that he can remember that would disprove the burglar story and the evidence is all quite sound.  But he keeps digging away.  As the book moves forward, he also eases mostly back into his life, except that he realizes he still (or newly) loves his ex-wife and wants to get back with her while she wants nothing to do with him.  The mystery takes precedence in the last third and is finally revealed in the end.  I was not totally satisfied with the ending as there was info missing from the reader so no way we could have guessed it.  The payoff did not really connect with the amnesia (though it did somewhat explain it) and so it felt a bit like a gimmick to keep the reader guessing.  The rebuilding of his life was actually more interesting and moving.  It's interesting, because the Westlake book still haunts me and it went the opposite direction, where any mystery narrative was discarded and the story was really about how the loss of memory would affect you.

No comments: