TRIAL BY WATER by George Cuomo


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 Ten years after his last novel (Family Honor, 1983), Cuomo makes a welcome return with this meaty small-town suspense story that adroitly encompasses family solidarity, class tensions, and teenage culture. Florian Rubio is a success story. The poor kid from the Bronx has become the real-estate whiz with a beautiful home in the showplace town of Trent, Massachusetts (which sounds a lot like Lenox); the middle-aged businessman has moved his parents up from the city, and now that divorced wife Elly has sent their son Brian east for his senior year, there are three generations under one roof. Then disaster strikes. Rivalry between the affluent kids of Trent and their counterparts in working-class Medway climaxes on ``Morp night'' (Trent's humorous inversion of a ``Prom''), when two Medway students drown, trapped in their car. Is it possible that the good-natured, likable Brian, using his father's Corvette, could have forced the other car down the ramp and into the lake? There are enough suspicions for Brian to be indicted (assault and battery, plus manslaughter). Cuomo keeps the suspense building as he alternates viewpoint between Florian and Joyce Johnway, the married woman with whom he's involved. Joyce is a Medway high- school teacher who cherishes her disadvantaged students, even a troublemaker like Jamie Pitt, the prosecution's chief witness and ex-boyfriend of Brian's Morp date, the super-rich Nique. The confidential revelations of this trio, a can of worms, differ markedly from the courtroom testimony; but Cuomo is not knocking the law, simply showing its limitations as well as its strengths. That exquisite evenhandedness is icing on the cake. Readers hungry for a strong plot with credible characters and settings should fall upon Cuomo's novel and devour it.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41230-1
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992