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Consider the Alternative: An Anita Servi Mystery Hardcover – May, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Agatha nominee Marcuse's third Anita Servi mystery (after 2001's Guilty Mind) works better as a straight novel than as a whodunit. Servi, an unemployed social worker, lucks into a new job near her home on Manhattan's Upper West Side only to find on her first day of work that her boss has taken her own life, apparently inspired by the Hemlock Society's famous guide, Final Exit. This disturbing incident proves to be the first of many. The retired cop who serves as chief of security for the apartment complex where Servi now works alerts her to an alarming increase in the death rate among the elderly residents over the past year. Suggestively, several of the deceased committed suicide using the Hemlock Society's methods. The plot enables Marcuse to explore, albeit with less depth and emotion than one might expect given the author's own professional background in eldercare, the morality of assisted suicide and the conflict between personal ethical standards and the needs of a loved one. It comes as little surprise that the deaths merit further inquiry, and there are too few characters with plausible motives to make the identity of the criminal a real puzzler. The amateurish nature of Servi's sleuthing makes the unresolved ending plausible, but still not satisfying. Her relationships with her husband and almost legally adopted nine-year-old daughter are warmly and convincingly portrayed, but any mystery whose climax seems borrowed from an episode of Murder, She Wrote is bound to disappoint.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Anita Servi's social work position, serving the elderly for St. John the Divine, has disappeared. So she's eager to begin her new job at Neighbors Aiding Neighbors (NAN) in the subsidized housing of Monument Estates, just south of Harlem and full of the elderly. On her first day, however, she discovers the body of the woman who hired her, a suicide ostensibly because she was despondent over her inability to conceive a child. The method used was one outlined in a well-known guide to suicide that many of the elders served by NAN had read and studied. Similar suicides follow thick and fast, and Anita puzzles out their relationship to each other only slowly. The rich personalities of the elders here, as well as Anita's own family--her cabinetmaker spouse and their nine-year-old, Clea, still not quite adopted--match the rich New York ambience, from Mama Joy's Deli to the Vermont Christmas tree sellers who set up on Broadway each December. This one's a bit more ruminative than the previous titles in the series but no less absorbing and city focused. GraceAnne DeCandido
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Top Customer Reviews
Since half the residents who own their own apartments are senior citizens, Nan (Neighbors Assisting Neighbors) was formed. Anita is hired as a social worker but on her first day on the job, she find her boss Susan dead in her office, a suicide note on her desk and the book Final Exit near the body. She later finds out that three other residents committed suicide by using the recommendations found in Final Exit. As the death toll mounts, Anita begins to wonder if someone isn't giving the residents a little assistance to their voyage to the other side.
Irene Marcuse makes a case for legally assisted suicide without making any moral judgment. CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE is a solid amateur sleuth tale with a social message woven into the plot. The protagonist is a superb role model who readers will want to emulate because she adheres to her principles.
There was way too much preaching about assisted suicide, and religion. Clea's character is a delight but it was extremely unrealistic, in a city like New York where everyone is obsessed with race that no-one has a problem with Anita and her husband Benno's adoption of her. This is going to be my last Anita Servi book. When I sit down to a mystery, I expect to be entertained, not lectured or bored. There is a lot of good in this author's writing but someone ought to tell her that in fiction it's more important to tell the story than to advance a social theory.
Marcuse's newest mystery that way. "Consider the Alternative" is her best effort -- intriguing, compelling and full of relationships that give you pause to think about your own life. The subject matter will make your reflect on "What if...?" and "How would I feel if a loved one...?" -- questions that linger long after the book ends. Irene has captured not just the Upper West Side but a magic of the intermingling of generations, ethnic and racial groups and occupations.