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Murder Without Icing    by Emma Lathen order for
Murder Without Icing
by Emma Lathen
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 1972
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

The writing partners behind 'Emma Lathen' (one an economist; the other, a lawyer) are familiar with Wall Street and comfortable enough to poke fun at its sacred cows. John Putnam Thatcher, senior vice-president of the fictional Sloan Guaranty Trust (a financial giant) brings his formidable intelligence and abilities to all aspects of his work. Since the company has wide-reaching interests that affect countless people, it is inevitable that he occasionally encounters murder; and if murder touches the Sloan, Thatcher will deal with it.

In Murder Without Icing, the Sloan has become identified with the New York Huskies, an ice-hockey team, because two clients are owners of the team and also because an overly-zealous publicity officer has launched an elaborate publicity campaign to tie the financial organization to the Huskies' meteoric popularity. The authors have a real gift for bringing characters to life. It is impossible not to sympathize with stolid and dependable Pete Levoisier (one of the players) and his wife Eileen, or Paul Imrie, the hothead who is continually in the penalty box, or Thatcher himself as he tries to evade the many publicity opportunities in which he is trapped. Similarly, it is all too easy to see why the victim, Billy Siragusa, hotshot young star of the team, might have driven somebody to murder. (The authors do not trash the victim; rather, they show very clearly how people can rub each other the wrong way, perhaps even to the point of murder).

The authors add their characteristic deft touches to the clever plot and engaging characters: playful chapter titles, humorous pokes at Wall Street and human foibles in general, effective introduction of characters so that they are easy to remember. Lathen is so good at explanations that high finance becomes amazingly clear (and I, a hockey dunce, now understand about expansion teams). Although I'm not a sports fan, this book is one of my favourite of Lathen's repertoire of mysteries.

Despite the setting of high finance, Lathen delivers stories about real people. After all, even the greatest financial empires are built by people. The authors never forget this.

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