Woods, Stuart. Choke (1995)
Harper Collins, 280 pages, $23.00 hardcover
Twenty some years ago Chuck Chandler choked. Right on Centre Court at Wimbledon. He squandered three match points, then went on to lose the most prestigious championship in tennis.
It’s 1995 when we next see Chuck, who has just arrived in Key West from Palm Beach, Florida, aboard his boat Choke. He’s a washed-up has-been (a never-was, actually) who’s moved from job to job because of an incurbable appetite for other men’s wives. In Key West he begins a new job as a tennis instructor and meets wealthy Harry Carras and his wife, Clare, who looks about 30 years younger than her husband. In no time Chuck and Clare are in the sack.
Enter Tommy Sculley, a former New York City policeman who’s retired to an easier beat in Key West. Tommy is immediately suspicious about Harry’s identity. When Harry turns up dead, Chuck quickly becomes the prime suspect. But Tommy and his partner Daryl (nephew of the Key West police chief) continue to investigate because Tommy’s intuition tells him Chuck isn’t guilty.
The denouement of this mystery stretches credulity a bit, but by that time we’re so interested in these characters and their stories that the stretch is easy to make.
And, at the crucial point of the climax, Chuck Chandler doesn’t choke.
© 1997 by Mary Daniels Brown