A Manhattan lawyer labors to keep the police from hounding a suspect in one murder even as she tries her best to link him to another.
Somehow Charlotte Broden escaped the heavy hand of her father’s otherwise iron will. Unlike her older sister, Ella, she didn’t give up alternative career plans to go to law school; instead of taking a job in F. Clinton Broden’s firm, she got her father to bankroll her MFA program at NYU; and now, she exultantly informs Ella, her half-finished mystery novel has already been purchased by Simon and Schuster. The only fly in the ointment is Charlotte’s disappearance the very next day, shortly after the unnervingly similar disappearance of Jennifer Barnett, a financial analyst at Maeve Grant. Frantic to follow any trail her sister may have left, Ella immerses herself in Charlotte’s unfinished novel, in which a narrator an awful lot like Charlotte is killed by one of her three lovers: college student Jason, struggling artist Marco, and well-cushioned professional Matthew. It’s easy enough to find the originals for Jason and Marco—NYU student Josh Walden and unemployed actor Zachary Rawls, who lives with Charlotte—but Ella’s heart turns over when she sees the resemblance between Matthew and Paul Michelson, her old college boyfriend, who’s come back into her life very recently indeed as Maeve Grant’s head of derivatives and whom her father has taken on as a client because he’s the leading suspect in the case of Jennifer Barnett. The case unfolds untidily, with several threads surprisingly dropped, but its leading coincidence, which is quite a whopper, is offset by an equally dazzling surprise two-thirds of the way through.
Mitzner’s (The Girl from Home, 2016, etc.) contemporary take on A Kiss Before Dying lacks the disturbing cohesion of Ira Levin’s tale, but it packs enough of a punch to make it worth reading on its own terms.