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Natural Suspect: A Collaborative Novel of Suspense by William Bernhardt,




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Who’s Line Is It, Anyway?

Eleven writers joined forces to create a new mystery novel, Natural Suspect. Author royalties from the book have been donated to The Nature Conservancy. They’ve created a cute and funny mystery novel. Some contributors took the handoff more seriously than others; some were very clever in how they took what came before, added to it, and passed along to the next writer. The pitfalls of collaboration exist here, as well. One hundred pages into the book, we’re still getting new context and background. Motives expand, and the unexpected changes in the personality of characters made for some inconsistencies that were distracting.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Julia Hightower leaned toward her dressing table mirror and stared at the ruin that was her face. Red-veined eyes, pouches like IV bags beneath them, dewlaps that hung from her jaws and flapped in the breeze like a bloodhound’s, and overlaying all of it a spiderweb of lines and creases like the embalming muslin wrapped over a desiccated mummy. Only fifty-five years old and she looked eighty. So much for the lifestyle of the rich and shameless. She’d consulted the best plastic surgeons, skin-care specialists, and mind-over-body transcendentalists in the world, and not one of them could save her from her face – er, fate.
She rose from her dressing table and turned to survey the ruin that was her life. No – not ruin, for that implied that something worthwhile once existed here. Wasteland – that was the word for it. Her life was an utter wasteland of idleness and boredom and the misery that came from never having done anything useful on this earth. The only honest work she ever did was at the Buckshot Cafe in Salt Gully, Texas, when she was eighteen years old and worked that many hours every day, slinging hash to a motley assortment of wildcatters who were all trying their luck in the oil fields. Her back ached and her feet swelled and she had the time of her life trading jokes, scraping tips off the counter, and flirting with every man who swung through the door.”

Mystery lovers may be frustrated because of multiple authors twisting and turning plots, clues and characters. I found Natural Suspect enjoyable and funny.

Steve Hopkins, December 19, 2001


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