A debut murder mystery focuses on complicated relationships.
The novel’s opening scene lays out the crisis Betty-Jean Garrett must endure when the narrative builds to its denouement. She awakens with a premonition that something bad has happened, and a phone call from her father saying there’s a family emergency confirms it. The story revolves around Betty-Jean and her older sister, Margaret. The two are best friends, with Betty-Jean being the impulsive one and Margaret, the levelheaded, responsible sister. The narrative meanders slowly back through the recent past, detailing the lives of the sisters, their friends, and especially their lovers—Tim Harrison, Betty-Jean’s handsome fitness-trainer husband, and Sherry Larson, Margaret’s secret lesbian girlfriend, a highly successful but deeply troubled ad executive. Sherry, who grew up in an orphanage, has a violent backstory. Repeatedly raped by the orphanage’s janitor, she bonded with Priscilla, a fellow orphan. Misinterpreting their friendship, Sherry propositioned her only to have an angry Priscilla embarrass her “in front of some of the girls…. ‘I thought you was a queer. You stay away from me, you freak.’ ” Margaret meets Sherry in a gay bar while on a business trip. A mystery man has been sending Sherry bouquets of roses. Then a crank caller becomes more threatening and begins murdering people Sherry knows, including her therapist. In this engaging mystery, Plummer offers several likely suspects, such as Gilbert Daggett, Sherry’s homophobic account executive who tells lesbian jokes when she is within earshot. Readers are kept guessing right up to the surprise conclusion. Although the dialogue has its snappy moments, as when Betty-Jean explains why she is shopping—“I needed some retail therapy”—it suffers from an overusage of “he said”/“she said” when it is obvious who is speaking. But the author deftly articulates many gay people’s fear of being out when Margaret tells Sherry: “We’re still being ridiculed, and even getting killed for being gay....some kids are still being bullied to the point of suicide.”
A promising, poignant whodunit.