In this novel, an abused woman’s misfortune follows her on an all-girls Mexican vacation.
Canadian author Gray’s addictive debut novel opens with a bout of marital violence that has taken its toll on good wife Karen Shettlebrandt. But after years spent cowering beneath the vicious blows of her jealous, controlling, drug-dealer husband, Ari, she’s had enough. She sneaks out of the house, leaving her young daughter, Annie, with her grandmother, and boards a plane to Cancun for a weeklong semipermanent vacation. Bent on christening her new life, Karen is joined by her three best friends: Theresa, a bohemian tree hugger yearning for motherhood; athletically gifted housewife Lisa; and single, successful and sexy Mona, a former child actress who’s kept her career alive. Things get complicated when Karen discovers that the suitcase she grabbed while rushing out of the house is filled with thousands in cash and a medley of criminals seem willing to do anything to steal it back. Rather than alert the police, which may expose Karen’s whereabouts to vengeful Ari, the girls carelessly spend the money by splurging on shopping sprees, hotel upgrades, lavish meals and a yacht voyage, all while bonding over long-buried secrets and festering personal troubles. When the thugs get desperate and up the violence quotient with death threats and gunshots, Karen becomes the ultimate target. An engaging, breezy storyteller, Gray is especially adept at keeping her narrative’s action moving while skillfully juggling her varied characters’ melodrama. Trailing the girls particularly closely is Gunner Dawson, a handsome stranger who embodies the seductive mixture of danger and blue-eyed swagger Karen swoons over. A few instances of heavy-handed religious overtones strain the story’s plausibility—and would such a pious group of ladies really keep and spend a suitcase full of cash that’s not theirs?—but that hardly dampens Gray’s lively, impressive debut.
A modestly thrilling first novel bolstered by a compelling moral challenge.