A debut mystery revolves around a teacher’s knowledge of a killing, and the crime’s political implications during the Watergate era.
Laura Parker is a fifth-grade teacher excited to celebrate the last day of school with a trip to Manhattan to see a Broadway show with her husband. He selfishly cancels their plans in favor of a night out with his co-workers, and Laura angrily decides to have an evening out without him. While walking downtown, she’s mistaken for a prostitute by a high-end pimp, and offered $150 to turn a trick at the luxurious Plaza Hotel. Amazingly, she accepts the offer, and has sex with a high-powered attorney, Paul Bradley. The next day Bradley is discovered dead in his hotel room, apparently strangled. Laura quickly covers her tracks, getting a new hairdo to alter her appearance and replacing the ankle bracelet she lost during the encounter, one with her husband’s pet name for her, Kat, engraved on it. Her predicament becomes even more complicated, though, when the police suspect Bradley was murdered by a man who had an illicit affair with the lawyer’s wife. Laura’s conscience is tortured because she saw the men responsible for the crime, but is afraid to come forward and reveal her indiscretion. In addition, it turns out that Bradley was a political insider with a connection to the Republican National Committee, and that there is the possibility that his death is the consequence of nefarious political subterfuge. Saltman skillfully braids the political and the personal, connecting Laura’s marital discontent with the brewing Watergate controversy. And the plot is just complicated enough to keep the reader guessing, but not so diffuse that it’s laborious to follow. One conspicuous difficulty with the plot is that it’s entirely borne out of Laura’s inexplicable decision to consent to prostitution; even given the woeful state of her marriage, it seems jarringly incongruent with her character. And while the prose is unerringly clear, it can be a touch schmaltzy: the pimp who strangely mistakes Laura for a hooker—what was she wearing?—calls himself “Mr. Hanky Panky.” Still, this makes for fun, recreational reading—light on literary substance, but still intelligently crafted and exciting.
A solid tale of murder, suspense, and political intrigue.