A lukewarm tale of suspense about an obsessed Manhattan woman who grows as evil as her nemesis.
Celebrating her birthday in Southampton, Jo Slater, at “a certain age,” appears to have it all. Once a steakhouse waiter, she now stands next to her husband, Lucius, worth $200 million. She thrives in Manhattan’s art scene and counts many friends. But, alas, image misleads. At the party, Jo meets a fawning Countess Monique de Passy. Lucius turns testy, and Jo soon learns what everyone, including the reader, already knows: Lucius and the Countess are having an affair. Interrupting their cabana tryst, Jo so startles Lucius that he suffers a fatal heart attack. She subsequently learns her husband had changed his will, leaving everything to Monique. Poor Jo loses the Southampton estate and the Fifth Avenue condo. Worse yet, Monique cleverly foils Jo’s every attempt to start a new life. Ambling home one night after a bleak day spent selling carpet, Jo drops in at the posh King Cole Room to splurge on a drink or two. A woman who just happens to look like Monique also drops in, and Jo’s four-year–long obsession to strike back at Monique crystallizes into a plan: Jo will hire the woman in the bar, an escort named Oliva, to pose as Monique. The faux Monique will consult a lawyer about filing a will, which will return Lucius’ estate to Jo. Of course, for Jo to collect, Monique must be dispatched. Jo hatches a jerrybuilt scheme that culminates in Monique’s death—the Countess dives over a balcony grasping at a million-dollar necklace Jo dangles before her. Jo returns triumphant to the social whirl, while in some dark place Oliva waits to claim her due.
A Hampton breeze that rarely chills. Hitchcock (Trick of the Hammer, 1994, etc.) misses the psychological insight that can make readers squirm with empathy.