Young love, physics, and murder don’t add up to much.
We begin with young Jack Stone stuck in Rennes, France, a cop posted outside his hotel room door. Although Jack frequently invokes Maguire, a detective in charge of “the case,” it will be an eternity before we learn what the case is. First, Jack tells us about the love of his life, Anne-Marie. He meets her at a provincial university in England, where her French mother moved after a divorce. Anne-Marie and Jack quickly fall in love, comparing themselves to hydrogen and helium, the first two atoms. He wonders whether their love was predestined, but concludes, as a physics student mindful of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, that the answer is no. Romance and physics can be handled with a light touch (see Lisa Grunwald’s delightful The Theory of Everything, 1991), but debut novelist Manlow makes it all absurdly heavy-handed here; it doesn’t help that Jack, Anne-Marie, and all the other characters are ciphers. Moving forward eight years, the narrative shows the now-married lovers hitting a rough patch. Anne-Marie, marketing director for a theater, is overseeing an exhibition by Spanish artist Sebastian Martinez. Jack comes home to find them making love. He is devastated—you know it’s serious when an Englishman cries into the marmalade—but man enough to punch Sebastian to the ground in front of a large crowd at the theater. Two days later Maguire interviews Jack; Sebastian has been fished out of the river, his throat cut, and Jack is a suspect. He follows Anne-Marie to France, where she has gone to think things through. They realize they still love each other madly, and it’s all been a dreadful misunderstanding, just as the “murder” was one of those dreadful accidents.
As silly as they come.