In Carney-Richman’s debut mystery, a journalist reporting on domestic violence gets caught up in a series of murders.
Nobody thinks that it’s a good idea for newspaper reporter Jane to marry Richard Sexton, a recently sober former district attorney, serial philanderer, and potential candidate for the U.S. Congress. Even Richard’s best friend, the aspiring screenwriter John Nesbitt, drunkenly tries to warn Jane about her fiance’s continuing infidelity—at the wedding reception. Later that night, John mysteriously disappears; Richard insists he took a boat, alone, out onto the ocean. Detective Philip Westmore, who’s “not only attractive and well-spoken, but also cultured and educated—erudite,” is assigned to find out what happened. Four years later, John’s disappearance has been officially ruled an accidental death; Richard has descended back in alcoholism and cheating; and Jane has been assigned a story about domestic violence. As research, she begins attending a survivors group, led by best-selling author Donatelle Eickmann, who is, unbeknownst to Jane, an ex-girlfriend of Richard’s. One night, everyone ends up together at the mansion of Jane’s uncle, Barry Hock, an Oscar-nominated director. Barry was John’s mentor, and he shares John’s fate: Before the evening’s over, Barry is discovered dead with a knife in his back. Westmore is tasked with solving the murder, but it may be Jane who has the most incentive to catch the killer. Carney-Richman’s prose has a bit of noir style (“This time, there was no question that a murder had been committed”), and she makes sure that each of her scenes is inflected with a dash of the sinister. However, the author does undermine a few of the mysteries by relating some parts of the story from guilty characters’ points of view. Also, the fact that so many of the players in this drama are unlikable will likely make it difficult for readers to get too invested in their fates. That said, the author also adds a few twists that pay off well by the end of the novel.
A sometimes-stylish but uneven psychological thriller.