Second-novelist and L.A. television anchor Lange (Trophy Wife, 1995) serves up another thriller that barely maintains a pulse.When Trisha's father sends answering machines (cutting- edge technology in 1979) to Kate, Molly, Lane, and his daughter for college graduation, these best friends vow they will stay in touch for life. Twenty years later, the "sisters" keep one another and the reader abreast of their goings-on through answering-machine messages, though this framing device is all but abandoned by the end of the book. The less-than-complicated plot centers on beautiful Kate, who is married to Austin Feruzzi, a caricature of evil. Not only does Feruzzi beat up and cheat on his wife, but he also conducts some shady business in the art world. He's so satanical that everyone wants to kill him, and they all say so. When Feruzzi inevitably turns up dead (a shame—he was the only character here who offered any real fun), almost any of Lange's cast of two-dimensional players could have done it. Was it John Valley, Feruzzi's client, the closeted gay movie star? Or perhaps Molly, "the only one of the four not born to wealth and privilege"? Maybe DeFarge, the unctuous con-man who speaks "with a hint of menace edging his thick Indian accent—? Or even Kate herself, having kicked her pill- and- liquor habit, and now nearly as strong as she is gorgeous and rich? In Lange's literary landscape, all ends happily, of course: the group, bearing no resemblance to Mary McCarthy's deftly drawn Vassar girls, remains intact—and each sister finds a beau to supply her with the Tiffany diamonds she deserves. A paper-doll world, void of true style and glamour, not to mention technique.
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