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THERE IS A SERPENT IN EDEN
By ROBERT BLOCH (Zebra; 1979)

A Robert Bloch novel that could well have shared the title of a previous Bloch publication: AMERICAN GOTHIC. This is to say that in THERE IS A SERPENT IN EDEN Bloch transplants quite a few gothic mainstays to a modern American setting. This isnít Blochís best work, but it is quite unique, and a definite page-turner.

     Drafted in Blochís usual pretension-free manner, the novel recounts what occurs over the course of a pivotal day at a luxurious Florida retirement community named (ironically) Eden, which with the abundance of jealousy, insanity and murder contained within its walls isnít far removed from the Castle Udolpho or Wuthering Heights.

     Edenís residents include Warren Clark, a dissatisfied middle-aged man resolved to kill himself; Ed Brice, a severely paranoid ex-investigator who likes to practice his government appointed skills on his neighbors; Carrie Humphries, a suspicious old bat who disapproves of virtually everything; Dolly Gluck, an amoral alcoholic looking to seduce Edenís wealthiest resident; Roy Crile, a retired librarian dying of cancer; Emily Nesbitt, whoís batshit-crazy; and Joe Marks, an elderly loner who at the urging of his much younger wife is gearing up for a lavish party.

     Itís Joeís party that attracts the proverbial serpent, which takes the form of Mick Sharpe, a slimeball caterer whoís planning a robbery. Needless to say, things donít go as planned for Mick--or anyone else.

     Bloch, as was his custom, does a fine job ratcheting up the suspense in a deceptively leisurely account that gradually accumulates momentum--and does so even with the frequent socio-political asides of a type Bloch often packed into his novels (which in this case center around being elderly in America, something the then-fiftyish Bloch was evidently concerned about). Another Bloch trademark is the bloody climax topped off with a surprise, and the ending that serves to explain that surprise and smooth things out, which were of course features of Mr. Blochís most famous novel--do I really need to tell you what that was?? 

     

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