Friday, December 30, 2011

Jaws (Benchley, Peter)

Rating: 5/5
Year: 1974
Genre: Horror
Read again? Yes.

Summer is only days away; Amity's 1,000 permanent residents will soon be joined by 9,000 summer visitors.

When Christine Watkins' mangled remains wash up on the beach where tourists might see, Amity's politicians step up and bravely order police chief Martin Brody to keep his mouth shut. The beaches will stay open, the paper will stay silent.

There were no witnesses.

A few quiet days pass, and within hours of each other a 6-year-old boy and a 65-year-old man are killed.

This time, there are witnesses.

Brody gets the beaches closed, but now (as he expected) he looks like the bad guy. Those politicians wouldn't dirty their hands with responsibility.

A shark expert from Woods Hole--Matt Hooper--thinks the killer is a Great White shark.

Now July 4th--the big weekend that could make or break Amity--is less than two weeks away. People are canceling their leases or just walking away from them. The Mayor's freaking out (he's one of the major real estate owners in town) more over the financial losses than over the killings.

Brody's wife Ellen has a shagfest with Hooper; we're treated to all of her rationalizations for this (lonely, bored, unhappy, etc.), but I wasn't sympathetic to her plight. Perhaps it's mostly there to heighten tension between Chief Brody and the shark expert later in the book, but it really made me dislike her.

Otherwise, Benchley tells a good story and moves it along. Characterization is reasonably good and there's only the amount of exposition that the reader needs.

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