Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Terrified Heart

According to the internet, New York native Irving Greenfield was a youthful runaway, a Korean War veteran, a merchant seaman, professor, and author. He authored the 16-book series Depth Force for Zebra as well as the Navy trilogy under the pseudonym of Roger Jewett. His most popular novel is Only the Dead Speak Russian, which spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. My first introduction to him is his gothics. He authored 11 gothic novels from 1966 through 1976 under the pseudonym Alicia Grace. I'm trying out The Terrified Heart, originally published by Belmont Tower in 1973. 

Danielle has experienced a tumbled love affair in New York. Breaking away from the past, she moves to cozy Vermont to work as a college professor teaching Greek History. It's here that she begins struggling with an awkward friend relationship with a man that just can't accept no as an answer. Needing a break from her new job and residence, Danielle spots a dreamy part-time job as a research assistant working on a Greek project. She's all in.

When Danielle meets Keith Wyler, he explains his entire convoluted past and job to her. Keith grew up on Long Island on a sprawling estate called Eleusis. He became married to a woman named Nina, who was then murdered and dumped on the shoreline. Keith was the main suspect in her murder, but the jury acquitted him and he left the family home for many years. Keith studied abroad, became enthralled with Greek culture, and now has returned to the U.S. hoping to write a book about an ancient Greek text. But, he wants to return to Eleusis to write the book while also reclaiming his birthright to inherit the estate. To accept the job as an assistant on the book, Danielle must agree to pose as Keith's wife upon his return to Eleusis. 

Greenfield's prose is elementary with a particular dryness to the characters. There's nothing to really like or dislike about any characters – even the murderer. Instead, Greenfield spends most of the 192 pages as banter between Danielle and Keith about his upbringing and the rivalry between himself and his crippled brother James. Readers can figure out who killed Nina instantly, which doesn't prove much credibility to the local law-enforcement. 

The unbelievable portion of the plot is that Nina and Danielle are nearly identical. What are the chances that Keith can find a woman who has a Greek History degree, looks identical to his previous wife, and is willing to pretend to be his current wife on a trip to the 'ole homeplace? That alone should be enough evidence that this is a complete mess. With a paper-thin plot, and disposable characters, The Terrified Heart is a literary deadbeat. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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