THE DEAD MAN’ BROTHER
By Roger Zelazny
Hard Case Crime
Ask any knowledgeable reader who was Roger Zelazny and you’ll be told he was a brilliant science fiction writer who won six Hugo Awards during his career. Which is why when the late author’s agent uncovered an unpublished manuscript the surprise was not so much in it’s discovery as the fact that it was a crime thriller. There is even some doubt as to when the book was written, although the author’s son, believes it was produced in the early 70s.
THE DEAD MAN’S BROTHER is a mystery thriller that moves across three continents and embroils its hero in murder, embezzling, espionage and militant revolution. Ovid Wiley is a respectable New York art dealer with a criminal past. When an old associate shows up on his gallery floor dead, Wiley soon finds himself a pawn for the C.I.A. He is sent to Rome to investigate a missing priest who has stolen millions of dollars from the church. Wiley soon learns the man has been murdered and then barely escape a hit on himself. When he discovers that Maria, another face from his criminal past, was the priest’s mistress, things begin to get complicated.
Eventually Wiley, with Maria in tow, is forced to fly to Brazil in search of the dead man’s brother, the leader of a group of anti-government revolutionaries. Although the book has many twists and turns, Zelazny was a competent storyteller and he never loses his main plot, dropping just enough clues to keep the reader following the bread crumbs along with an often-times befuddled Wiley.
This is not the best such book I’ve read and there were places I wished the author would have quickened the pace. No writer ever wants to limit his or her range and that Zelazny had a crime book in him is no surprise. Still, it comes nowhere near the originality and daring of his science fiction work, in which he excelled. In the end, neither a success or failure, THE DEAD MAN’S BROTHER seems a personal experiment he needed to get done, which I suspect is why he never pushed getting it published. Thus it now surfaces as a literary oddity and that may truly be it’s only worth.