(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Franklin Bradshaw, a Scrooge-like auto-parts dealer, who worked long hours every day of the year, was often at odds with his family. His wife, Berenice, enjoyed spending money and having a good time. His first-born child, Robert, spent the last fifteen years of his life in a mental institution.

Bradshaw’s most serious problems centered on his youngest daughter, Frances, a board member of the prestigious New York City Ballet, who constantly demanded money for her support. Frances, an unbalanced and hysterical personality, lived vicariously through her children: her young daughter, whose ballet career was the passion of her mother’s life, and her two sons, Marc and Larry, whom she frequently abused.

Larry, her least favorite child, was convicted of attempted murder of a fellow college student. Marc, who admitted killing his grandfather, testified at his mother’s trial that she had ordered him to do it and to disguise the shooting as a robbery. In fact, both Marc and Frances committed some simple blunders, such as keeping the murder weapon; otherwise, the crime would have remained unsolved.

This is a tale stranger and more compelling than a mystery thriller. Two books abut the Bradshaws were published simultaneously; both were popular, NUTCRACKER somewhat more so. Alexander, with previous nonfiction successes to her credit (about Patty Hearst and Jean Harris), has written a very readable account of the blockbuster crime story of the year.