Even though Edna Pontellier is fictitious—the embattled heroine of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening—it's clear Helen Coulter takes her self-drowning personally. “Suicide is cowardly, a cop-out,” she vehemently tells the other members of her book club. And it’s Helen’s vehemence that schoolteacher-sleuth Amanda Pepper can't get out of her mind when, on the very next day, she gets the appalling news: Helen herself is dead after a three-story fall from the roof of her house: a suicide, according to the police. Amanda hasn’t known Helen forever, but it's hard for her to reconcile the Helen she did know (vibrant and tough-minded) with the emerging official view that the deceased, subject to bouts of serious depression, was trying to cope with severe business worries, a philandering husband, and sundry other troubles, and failed—and that after killing herself she left a note begging forgiveness for the act. Haunted by Helen’s book-club diatribe, Mandy (Adam and Evil, 1999, etc.), with the help of her live-in policeman, C.K. Mackenzie, powers up an investigation. Secrets are unearthed, lies revealed, and in due course it turns out that murder, not suicide, caused Helen's demise, justifying Mandy and surprising no one.
Some funny lines, even some wise ones, but the pace is slow and the territory overfamiliar.