STELLA ALLAN – An Inside Job. Avon, US, paperback, 1980. First published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1978; Charles Scribner’s Sons, US, hardcover, 1978.

   Most of the mainstream critics who commented on the recent movie Body Heat compared it, not illogically, to the works of James M, Cain. Those of us in the know (as we’re prone to say) will also say that here was the closest adaptation of an old Gold Medal paperback novel that’s ever been made.

   Consider the theme: an unwary male victim is caught up in the temptations of a beautiful woman’s lush afterglow, sinking him deeper and deeper into a never-ending web of crime and deceit. Raiders of the Lost Ark notwithstanding, Body Heat certainly got my vote for the movie of the year. It simply sizzled.

   But back to the tale at hand. This nifty little novel of murder and retribution neatly reverses the theme of all those sultry paperback novels of the 50’s. This time around a feminist it is, rising to the top of the business world, who finds herself putty in the hands of her best friend’s husband.

   Times have changed, and the roles have been reversed. The ensuing death of Sheila Pettit’s employer and long-time mentor causes her no feeling of sorrow or regret. And this could be the greatest problem you will find with this book. None of the people involved could be described as even half-way appealing. The futures they cut out for themselves no one could possibly conclude are other than what they most richly deserve.

Rating:   B minus

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1982 (slightly revised).