Four lives collide in a third death-obsessed fable from Wagman (Spontaneous, 2000, etc.).
Ray, a morose Beverly Hills cop, wonders what rush hour would look like from outer space: people dashing out of their offices, driving home—but where are they really going? Well, he knows the whereabouts of one: his wife, who just hopped into her Toyota to drive to Arizona to meet her lover. Divorce papers to follow, pal. Check your mailbox. Ray has been collecting another kind of mail that he finds all too often: letters from the soon-to-be-dead known as suicide notes. These vary from obscene or maudlin outpourings to terse poetry, like #206 (“To Whom It May Concern: Give my clothes to Goodwill. Give my books to the library. Give my shoes to the dog”). Ray isn’t a cheerful soul at the best of times, but he does his job. When Dorothy Fairweather slams into two other cars at an intersection, he learns that she’s about to be married but has her doubts. And the gown just isn’t right—could it be a sign? Segue to another POV: Madelyn, a rich, frustrated Beverly Hills housewife, whose involvement in the accident puts a new spin on her secret life: She’s fantasized about ending it all rather than running away from husband Mitch and the kids but has settled for volunteering at a suicide hotline and the amorous attention of frequent caller Steve, a double amputee and sex machine, who makes her feel truly alive. Then there’s Leo, a drifter whose beat-up car was totaled—meaning he has no place to sleep. Leo has a knack for picking up lonely women, though he wasn’t expecting the plain girl who brought him home from a seedy bar to swallow a bottle of barbiturates. Took hours for her to die, but he didn’t call 911: he needs the apartment, you know?
Unsettling, witty, grim. The suicide notes are the best.