An out-of-work copy editor starts snooping when the admissions counselor at her son’s prep school dies at the height of applications season.
Fired from Simon & Schuster for missing an unforgivable typo (a missing “l” in the title of a reissue of the Nancy Drew classic Secret of the Old Clock), single Jewish mom Rannie Bookman is reduced to giving pre-admission tours of Chapel School, the snooty Upper West Side private institution her children attended courtesy of her moneyed ex. Alice, now at Yale, is strong and steady, but Nate has his issues. He plans to attend Stanford instead of an Ivy League school, balks at the tasteless fare served by his WASP grandma Mary’s maid Earla, who “never overspices,” and has the hots for rich, rebellious Olivia Werner, who won’t finish her Princeton essay because she wants to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology. His biggest problem, however, is that he was the last to see A. Lawrence Tutwiler before Tut was found dead in his office. It’s only partly because of Nate that Rannie tails Augusta Hollins, whose relationship with the much-older Tut intrigues her. Her curiosity may threaten more than her burgeoning relationship with down-to-earth Tim Butler.
Children’s author O’Connor (The Snow Globe Family, 2006, etc.) offers unusually compelling depictions of adult sexuality in her frank, funny adult debut.