Impulse Hardcover – Jun 1 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At the start of Ramsey's superb, perfectly paced stand-alone, Phoenix mystery writer Frank Smith heads for his 50th prep school reunion—at Scott Academy, near Baltimore—anxious about all the attendant grudges, passions, jealousies and nostalgia. More seriously, Smith must contend with the suicide of his brother, Jack, 50 years earlier; the disappearance of four teenage schoolboys during the 1980s; and, back home in Arizona, the relatively recent murder of his wife, Sandy, a crime for which he's now the chief suspect. Ramsey (Artscape and Secrets) treats these traumas in a manner at once intriguing and believable yet somehow breezy and joyous. Seldom in crime fiction does one meet lead characters as likable as Smith and his long-lost friend/new love interest, Rosemary Mitchell. Both are "pushing seventy" but try to solve the various mysteries with the style, audacity and intelligence of a Sun City version of Nick and Nora Charles. Their senior viewpoint with commentary on various generations—"Greatest," Boomers, Xers—makes for a perspective that's at once tart, worldly and compassionate and that nicely balances the genuine evil in the air. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Partly to escape scrutiny by police, who suspect him of murdering his disappeared wife, mystery writer Frank Smith decides to attend the fiftieth reunion of Scott Academy--the place where he spent his childhood, where his father taught and he attended school, and where his younger brother committed suicide. At a cocktail party, he's challenged to solve a real-life mystery that occurred at the school----the 25-year-old disappearance of four students who were last seen in a wooded area on the school grounds, an area where Frank and his brother played as children. Unable to solve his wife's disappearance, he throws himself into this new crime. Playing Nora to his Nick is widowed Rosemary Mitchell, a friend from childhood, who helps Frank tie the present to the past and step toward the future. Wrapped in a mystery-frame story, this is a touching reflection on the changes that come with growing older in a society prejudiced against the elderly. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
His return to campus is greeted enthusiastically by Brad Stark, Director of Development, who is hoping that he will persuade Frank to make a considerable donation to the school. To keep Frank interested in the school, Stark persuades Frank to investigate and possibly write about the disappearance of four twelve-year-olds who had been part of the 25th reunion class.
The action cuts from scene to scene, sometimes without transitions, as the author presents characters in action. The reader must often fill in the blanks regarding when, where, and who is involved in some of these short scenes, but eventually all connect to the central mysteries. While Frank is in Baltimore, police detectives in Arizona unearth new information about his wife's death. In a conversation with Frank, his daughter Barbara betrays her own uncertainty about her father's role in her mother's disappearance. In the meantime, Rosemary Mitchell, an old friend and fellow "Campus Kid," becomes Frank's assistant investigating the disappearances of the four young boys--or was it five?
The novel is beautifully paced, with both mysteries unfolding simultaneously and keeping the reader constantly involved with the action. Frank is a sympathetic main character, and his daughter Barbara's questions about her mother's death and her father's possible role in it are natural and understandable. Rosemary Mitchell, as Frank's 66-year-old companion, is realistic, not at all Miss Marple-ish, and the complications of the 25-year-old case provide plausible twists regarding the disappearances of the four young boys. Though the writing is not always smooth and the use of transitions between some of the scenes might make the action a bit easier to follow, the mysteries and their resolutions are top-notch. n Mary Whipple
The writer attends his fiftieth prep school reunion in Maryland having not been on the campus since he graduated because his brother committed suicide after being expelled from there after an accusation by another student. At the school Frank meets his childhood sweetheart Rosemary. The two seniors hit off romantically. Frank is challenged to solve a mystery that has haunted the school for twenty-five years. A group of boys were seen entering Old Oak Woods, but never came out. Frank and Rosemary search the records and interview people when his wife's body is found. Sergeant Ledezma digs deep to prove Frank killed her.
IMPULSE is an entertaining cerebral mystery that contains two simultaneously running investigative subplots. Frederick Ramsey effortlessly guides his audience back and forth between the police inquiry and Frank's prep school case keeping readers' attention on both. The protagonist proves that life continues in spite of the clouds hanging over him and his advancing years. Mr. Ramsey tells a strong tale that keeps fans guessing whether Frank did it or not until the final moment.
To begin with, Frederick Ramsay is a skilled prose craftsman. He knows how to construct a graceful sentence, set a meaningful scene, create characters who have depth and human-ness, and tangle two plot lines which merge and become one. I enjoyed the setting as well--all the more because it described my own backyard of Northwestern Michigan (Benzie and Leelanau Counties) and the people who live here--as well as the visitors we experience in the form of tourists and seasonal residents.
And finally it's enjoyable because the main character, Frank Smith, is of my age (old!!!) with all the attendent creaks and groans and fears. Frank also doesn't undergo any of the typical trite conventions of the current crop of detectives--he isn't run off the road by a large black truck and he doesn't get in a slugfest (well, almost not) with the town drunks.
He does return to his 50th class reunion, discover an old flame, and solve the mystery of the disappearance of four students some 25 years before.
Enjoyable. Erudite. In fact, "Impluse" is masterful. I recommend it.
Four years' ago, the wife of Arizona mystery author Frank Smith went for a walk and disappeared leaving Frank the number one suspect.
Frank's father had been a teacher and Frank a resident student at Scott Academy in Maryland. He has never been back but decides to return for his 50th class reunion. Because it is assumed Frank is wealth, he is targeted by the fun raising chairman for a large donation.
Instead he accepts a challenge to solve the mystery of four boys who went into the school's woods 25 years ago and were never seen again.
It is rather refreshing to have protagonists who are 60+ and more cerebral than daring. Frank Smith and his friend Rosemary are wonderful characters who enable the author a platform on which to talk about aging and our perceptions of older; i.e., experienced, adults but without being preachy about it.
I particularly enjoyed Rosemary's conversations with her inner self. Frank's daughter was realistically portrayed, if a bit annoying and spoke to children's often unrealistic view of their parent's financial status while treating them as children. As for the other characters, they were a lot of them; they were stereotypical.
The book is well written and plot interesting. The POV changed frequently which did cause come confusion. While I enjoyed the book, I kept thinking my mother would love it as there is no violence, sex or profanity.
Normally, I stick with historical fiction and mysteries, because I don't like stories with the Mafia, dirty cops, gang wars, drug rehab plots, thugs with guns killing every third person mentioned in the book, and all of the violence that is in so many stories that take place today. I think it's much more challenging to write a real mystery about a "normal" person who makes a wrong decision and things to from bad to worse, or to write about an average person with his own personal mystery hanging over his head. It seemed as if Ramsay wrote this book specially for me! Couple of good, clean mysteries, protagonists with a few years on them (like me), nice setting, no gunfire on stage. A more cerebral mystery.
I read a couple of the Ike Schwartz books, but I think this must be one of Ramsay's best, from my point of view.
Being into history, I'm soon to purchase The Eighth Veil, which takes place in ancient Jerusalem. I expect to enjoy it--no guns, no drugs, no Crips, no Mafia.
Thanks, Mr. Ramsay, for giving us a selection of types of stories.