There’s enough plot for two or three Robert Ludlum potboilers in this agreeably overstuffed second from Goodman (The Lake of Dead Languages, Jan. 2002).
Add to that a heroine who’s both a savvy writer and teacher and the gothic-thriller type who keeps walking into situations guaranteed to compromise or endanger her. Actually, it’s understandable that Iris Greenfeder heads for the moribund Hotel Equinox in the Catskills—where her late mother (pseudonymous fantasy author K.R. La Fleur) had worked—since the familiar Irish folktale, about a “seal woman” tricked into ill-fated marriage with a mortal, that Iris’s mother had loved and written about seems to hold clues to why the reclusive author died in a fire at another hotel, accompanied by the man for whom she had left her husband. Sound complicated? That’s only the beginning of the intrigue, which also involves Iris’s adult ex-convict student (and eventual lover) Aidan Barry; powerful hotelier Harry Kron, whose reasons for resurrecting the Equinox may be even more sinister then they seem; a jewel theft many years ago, which echoes the fate of the “net of tears” woven by the aforementioned seal woman; and an elderly gardener, a secretive literary agent, a vengeful female editor, among other primary and secondary suspects. It’s fun in the early going, as Goodman makes suggestive connections between the matter of classic fairy tales and her mother’s story. Then the tale flattens out midway, as hitherto-concealed motives and interrelationships need clarifying. Goodman wins us back, though, with a Chinese-box climax and dénouement in which Iris risks her life, learns how her mother’s novels had fictionalized her own family history and unshared secrets—and also how she herself isn’t the woman she thinks she is.
Much too long, and tending to cliché, but a pretty good romantic suspenser nonetheless.