Kirkus Star


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Smith comes out swinging and never lets up in her knockout debut novel. It seems a misnomer to label this a detective story, since the mysteries unraveled by FBI agent Ana Grey are in another league entirely -- as is Grey herself. She delves into a case involving Violeta Alvarado, a woman who may or may not have been her distant cousin. (Grey knows little about her Central American father's side of the family, and her discoveries about her past -- in particular her changing view of the retired police officer grandfather who raised her -- are gripping.) Alvarado has been gunned down, leaving behind two small children; almost simultaneously, aging starlet Jayne Mason, recently sprung from Betty Ford, accuses Alvarado's former employer, a physician, of addicting her to prescription drugs. Smith has her finger on the pulse of modern American life here, fictionally capturing numerous societal trends with great style. The doctor under investigation lives in a wealthy section of Santa Monica north of Montana Avenue, ""the land of the newly rich where noontime joggers pass beneath scarlet-tipped coral trees on a wide grassy meridian."" This is the same area where Grey lived with her grandfather during the early years of her life, and where their modest home is now for sale at $875,000. In further exploration of the breach between rich and poor, Grey is taken on a joy ride by Jayne Mason and momentarily falls under the celebrity's spell; she also goes on an outing to a botánica with the woman caring for Alvarado's children and receives mystical instructions on how to find peace. These episodes carry no whiff of sociological discourse; they just happen to be part of a terrific story. Even a plot line involving frustrated love that threads through the other narratives has impact and originality. Transcends all conventions.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1994
ISBN: 0307390659
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf