Debut suspense novel offering a sexually frank variation on Robert Nathan's novel Portrait of Jennie, with pleasing results. Sutton spent nine years writing TV's Cheers scripts. Thus, with a hero who writes a comedy series and is abetted by a tartly gay co-scripter in resolving his fantastic problem, one foresees a comedy melodrama with a second lead who does all the wisecracks. Carl Rooney, whose parents have died and who still lives in the family home in Glendale, works late with co-writer Kit, then drives home in the wee hours, only to find someone throwing gravel at his bedroom window. It's his old high-school sweetheart Jesse and, as they did 17 years ago before breaking up, they make love out back in the greenhouse. And then Carl finds that Jesse, whom he hasn't seen since high school, is mentally locked into those early years. She can—t remember anything that's happened since, and acts as if they're both teenagers—until Carl proves otherwise. The reader at first thinks this overly cute. But logic builds a real case for Jesse's lapse and, with Kit's help, they begin investigating her past. They discover that Jesse is the wife of a rich ex-chocolate manufacturer, and that she was lost at sea during a storm. Or so her husband, Martin Ackerman, and his brother Wes have said. But when Carl's ex-wife Amanda puts Jesse under hypnosis, bits and pieces of returned memory point to either Martin or Wes (or both) assaulting her. Attempts are made on Carl's life, and a further look into Jesse's past turns up her feeble-minded mother in a nursing home. When Jesse's memory fully returns, there's a variety of unanticipated revelations. Will Jesse go back to her husband? And will she ever get over Carl's dumping her during the worst moment of their teen years? Noirish whimsy offering a fleshed-out script with every element in place but Hitchcock.
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