A bestselling author is caught in a web of psychological manipulation, sexual taboo, and financial ruin.
The second novel by veteran magazine writer Colapinto (About the Author, 2001, etc.) is a speedy tale about the personal and professional demolition of Jasper, who’s become a celebrity via a memoir about caring for his wife, who suffered a debilitating stroke while giving birth to their daughter. Elsewhere, 17-year-old Chloe catches Jasper on an Oprah-esque show and immediately recognizes him as somebody her late mother had a brief fling with. Her boyfriend, Dez, who’s hit the skids thanks to his taste in just-underage girls like Chloe, conceives a plot to improve their fortunes: convince Jasper that Chloe is his daughter (though she knows she’s not), have her use her feminine wiles to seduce him, then reap Jasper’s fortune after an incest-rape scandal. Colapinto’s plotting (DNA sample switcheroos, etc.) at times strains credibility, and there are stretches of purple prose. (“Her body was so precariously perched between foal-like childhood and the full, fecund effulgence of erotically charged womanhood.”) But his pacing is expert, and Chloe’s seduction scheme isn’t played solely for titillation—Colapinto means to explore male sexual obsession, from the morality of pornography to the illegality of Dez’s fixation to America’s go-away-a-little-closer attitude toward youthful sexuality and erotic confession. These gray areas aren’t especially gray: Jasper is plainly a wronged victim, and Dez is plainly sadistic. But in the climactic chapters, Colapinto enjoys pushing both men to their extremes, befitting a plot that has echoes of a Greek tragedy. There are enough loose ends to suggest a sequel—Jasper himself wrote a series of Sherlock-ian mysteries before hitting the memoir jackpot. But the novel stands solidly on its own.
A well-machined page-turner that brings some smarts to a touchy subject.