Monday, October 15, 2007

Who Is Huntington Cage?

Here's a high-concept novel that has "made-for-TV pilot" written all over it. I'm thinking Christopher George and Jennifer O'Neill as the leads with John Llewellyn Moxey directing. Let's see what you think.

THE LADY KILLERS, published by Popular Library in 1975, is the first novel in Alan Riefe's CAGE series about twin detectives in New York City. The gimmick is that nobody knows they are twins. Each brother keeps the other's identity a secret, so that they can (literally) be in two places at the same time. Hunt Cage is the real private eye, operating out of Manhattan, while twin Hadley (or "Lee) works as a painter in Palisades, New Jersey. Whenever Hunt gets into a tight spot, he signals Lee to help bail him out by posing as Hunt somewhere else. Honestly, I didn't really understand the advantage of pretending to be the same person, as it takes a lot of work for the two men to pull off the charade, and it seems as though they could be more effective working in the open as partners.

Riefe's novel is basically a straightforward crime drama with Hunt tracking down The Chain of Silk: a five-member team of hired assassins, all of whom are beautiful young woman. Their leader, Marie Visconti, is the daughter of a Mafia chieftain who put out a hit on Hunt. Cage survived four bullets to the chest, but Lee killed the senior Visconti out of revenge. Marie retaliated by blowing up Hunt's apartment, which resulted in the death of his cop girlfriend.

No graphic violence or sex in this one, but Riefe presents plenty of action scenes: gun battles, chases, car crashes, pursuits through the wilderness. Its 173 pages move very quickly at the expense of characterization (we learn almost nothing about the five villainesses, and most of them aren't even given names). Riefe penned at least six CAGE novels during the 1970s, but THE LADY KILLERS (the clever title takes on a meaning different than what I expected when I began reading it) is the only one I have.

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