MR. WHITE'S CONFESSION.

Clark, Robert.

ISBN 10: 0312192177 / ISBN 13: 9780312192174
Published by New York: Picador, 1998. dj, 1998
Hardcover
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Hardcover first edition - First printing. The author's second novel, a complex story of murder set in Minnesota in 1939, winner of the Edgar award for best novel of 1998. 341 pp. Very near fine in a like dustjacket. Bookseller Inventory # 39713

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Bibliographic Details

Title: MR. WHITE'S CONFESSION.

Publisher: New York: Picador, 1998. dj

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

St. Paul, Minnesota, 1939. Lieutenant Wesley Horner is heading a police investigation into the brutal murder of a beautiful showgirl. His chief suspect is Herbert White an eccentric recluse and hobby photographer who spends his days writing gushing fan letters to Hollywood starlets and, recording his life in detailed journal entries and scrapbooks.Then another dancer is found murdered, and the clues point once again to Herbert White. In his extraordinary second novel, Robert Clark examines the inner worlds of two very different men and the women in their lives. He illuminates the complex relationships between truth and fiction, past and present, while exploring the nature of faith and memory.

Review:

In Robert Clark's second novel, Mr. White's Confession, two men grope through real and metaphysical mysteries in post-depression Minnesota. A pair of girls, taxi dancers at a local dance hall, have been murdered. It seems obvious to everyone involved that the killer is Herbert White, a quiet eccentric with a taste for glamour photography--particularly after portraits of the dead women are found in his apartment. Yet police Lieutenant Wesley Horner finds himself obsessed with the oddities of the case, starting with the fact that the suspect is afflicted with a faulty memory. Literally unable to recall anything but the distant past (and intermittent patches of the present), White cannot confess to the murders. Did he in fact commit the crime, or is he merely a convenient scapegoat? Agonizing over these questions, Horner also begins to ponder the role that memory plays in understanding the past--and the present.

Part of the narrative consists of Herbert White's journal, and this is the best part of Mr. White's Confession. Here Clark creates a voice that is both innocent and formal and, most of all, blind to its own desires. Recalling a visit by Ruby Fahey, one of the eventual victims, the photographer writes: "She went back to my bedroom to change, and I must say I felt a huge sort of breathlessness at the idea that she was in my room shedding and then donning her garments, rather as if some mystery of great enormity were taking place right here in my humble quarters!" Horner's half of the narrative, alas, is weighted down by tired lyricism, and populated by a hard-boiled cast straight out of Raymond Chandler. The result is a gripping mystery with an anticlimactic ending--less a philosophical resolution than the tail of a shaggy-dog story. --Emily Hall

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