LINDBERGH'S SON by John Vernon (Viking: $17.95; 287 pp.). What on earth would prompt a proper, middle-age water engineer in Upstate New York, Charles Cooper, to think that, by some quirky twist of fate, he just might be the son of America's most famous aviator, the late Charles Lindbergh? Charles Jr. was presumably kidnaped and murdered as an infant, 55 years ago.
On this bizarre and convoluted theme, novelist John Vernon builds a case of circumstantial evidence so shaky that Perry Mason, working with a fixed jury, couldn't get an acquittal--a mix-up in the Social Security Administration with Cooper's number being assigned to a "Charles Lyndhurst," and then, out of Cooper's research into his question-riddled past, a whole gaggle of characters from that past who keep changing names and identities and relationships and who may, or may not, have had something to do with the Lindbergh case.
In the course of this, at least, the reader finds out some offbeat facts about the sensational 1931 case and about Lindbergh, himself. That an infant of similar size, sex and age had disappeared simultaneously from a nearby orphanage, and that Baby Lindbergh and Charles Cooper had a few physical characteristics, allergies, and scars in common. Deserting both his wife and his career, Charlie Cooper finally slips over the dark edge of his weird obsession.
As a novel of paranoia running amok, "Lindbergh's Son," may be successful, but is it enough when the protagonist . . . and most of the people around him . . . are all as nutty as fruitcakes and completely self-absorbed?