A diamond turns out to be both more and less than a girl’s best friend.
Cooling down from her morning jog, 40-ish Claire Montrose (Heart-Shaped Box, 2001, etc.) braces herself against an estate’s crumbling bit of stone wall and fastens on a flashy diamond ring in an antique setting. When she shows it to her housemate Charlie, the octogenarian Holocaust survivor recognizes it immediately as belonging to her friend Elizabeth, who killed herself years ago. But she thinks Elizabeth returned the ring to Allen Lisac, her fiancé. How did it wind up in the wall? Allen, still suffering from wounds sustained during the Korean conflict and now married to Elizabeth’s less beautiful sister Mary, doesn’t know. Neither do Elizabeth’s best friend Nova, now languishing in a retirement community; her brother Frank, the darling of the geriatric set for his dancing prowess; her former neighbor Howard, a dedicated birder; or Tom, Charlie’s former lover, who happily picks up where they left off. Then Nova succumbs, Tom is shot to death, and anti-Semitism once again touches Charlie. As Elizabeth’s secrets—her unwanted pregnancy, her jilting, and the suspicion that her suicide was really murder—come to light, Claire’s beau Dante, a museum curator, spots possible forgeries in Lisac’s art collection. Gloomy stuff indeed.
Readers unfamiliar with Claire’s past job in Oregon’s Specialty Plates bureau will wonder why each chapter begins with a cute vanity license plate so gratingly at odds with the somber mood.