By page 58—when a pretty Jefferson University coed is found in St. Louis’s Forest Park fatally beaten—readers have been fully informed whodunit. The question is whether Jake Conason, handsome, well-regarded, and hitherto law-abiding to his eyeteeth, is going to get away with it. A brilliant student, Jake has his post-graduation future carefully planned. It includes Harvard Law, eventual partnership in his fat-cat father’s money-coining firm, and marriage to lovely Jordan Lansing, the kind of sweet-natured girl who “oozes good will.” And he’s steaming full-throttle toward it all until an unsettling argument with Jordan coupled (the operative term) with Kelly Stone’s opulent, entirely accessible body intervenes. Angry with Jordan, Jake makes love to Kelly—a one-night stand in both their minds. But experienced genre fans, or even readers of An American Tragedy, know how these things work, and few will be surprised by the resulting pregnancy. What Jake does about it—the speed and remorselessness with which he takes to murder—is another matter. Before you can say Raskolnikov, a spoiled, self-involved overachiever (but nothing worse) has committed his heinous crime and is wriggling desperately to evade his punishment. Not only does the reader know whodunit, however, but so does at least one intuitive cop and one shrewd, implacable young female with a convoluted agenda of her own. The tricky ending is biter-bit, but enigmatic enough to suggest that after the last page is turned, the bites may well go on.
Lyons’s prose won’t win any awards (his dialogue is especially shaky) but, overall, a creditable debut.