Listfield (Waiting to Surface, 2007, etc.) combines domestic melodrama with murder mystery in this tale of a Manhattan couple whose secrets almost cause their downfall.
PR executive Lisa and financial journalist Sam have been happily married since college. Narrating their story, Lisa is at pains to describe the family as virtuous Upper East Siders: Although she sends her two daughters to a private school for a superior education, she is uncomfortable with the snobbish Upper East Side mothers. Life starts to unravel when she hears a suspicious message on Sam’s cell phone and overhears a more suspicious conversation. She begins to suspect that Sam, who claims he is working on a big story to cement his shaky career, might be having an affair. Her own job security becomes uncertain when her boss sells to a large out-of-town firm that brings in a consultant who appears determined to undermine Lisa’s authority. Lisa confides all to Deirdre, a boutique owner who’s been her best friend since college. Then Lisa, Sam and Deirdre have dinner with Deirdre’s old flame Jack, now a lawyer in Boston, who’s in town to interview at a Manhattan firm. Romantic sparks fly between the former lovers, and Jack, claiming his marriage has failed, enlists Lisa’s help to renew his relationship with Deirdre, who is currently confused about her long affair with an untrustworthy, globetrotting photographer. Listfield does a nice job showing delicate marital tensions between Sam and Lisa, and she also creates a compelling, vaguely mysterious counterpoint character in Deirdre. But Deirdre’s murder sucks all the energy and believability out of the novel. It’s obvious who’s guilty, so Lisa’s semi-sleuthing makes her seem at best dense, at worst self-absorbed and meddlesome. The too-neatly wrapped-up ending, in which Sam’s journalistic coup reaps him a book deal for big bucks, may be the least believable aspect of all.
Lively insights give way to predictable made-for-TV-movie fare.