For Richard Segal, these are the deep-dyed worst of times. Nothing but nothing in his life seems to be going right, including his five-year-old marriage. And it somehow doesn't help that for Paula, things do seem to be going right—her new and richly deserved promotion as evidence. Whereas Richard, once a hotshot computer salesman, hasn't broken the ice in seven interminable months, Paula is now a research VP at her brokerage firm. That means her base is $10,000 a year more than his, which, as she points out acidly during one of those domestic free-for-alls that have become commonplace between them, `makes the hunter feel like he's not providing.` Bull, says Richard, knowing it's not. Compounding a variety of irritations small and large is the reappearance into his life of one Michael J. Rudnick, last seen when Richard was 12, Rudnick 17. Actually, that leaves mere irritation way behind, since Rudnick is a figure out of Richard's scariest nightmares. Something happened between them 22 years ago, something Richard has shied away from naming even to himself, except to acknowledge that it was almost unbearably ugly. Seeing Rudnick suddenly looming as the two cross Fifth Avenue from opposite sides, is first a stomach-turning surprise and then a detonation. Rage, too long suppressed, proves volatile in the extreme—and when Richard explodes, no one close to him is safe from fall-out.
Starr (Nothing Personal, 2000, etc.) makes all the right noir moves, but if noir to you means no more than dismal, be warned: you won't easily stomach self-hating, rancorous Richard.