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A member of the tragedy-stricken family in Fink's debut novel, The Leaf Boats (1991), is a major character in this, the author's third. He's Jimmy Gillespie, an investigative reporter at Chicago's Channel 12, where all hell has broken loose. Competent, well-liked co-anchor Marlee Roberts has been found dead, wrists slashed, in what is first called suicide, then murder, possibly by a serial killer. High-voltage, newly installed news director Howard Custer assigns Karen Kohl, already his mistress, to cover the story. Jimmy had been influential in getting Karen hired, as a favor to her lifelong friend Kathleen Reilly, a married woman from Wilkes-Barre with whom Jimmy is infatuated. In short order Karen becomes co-anchor and Jimmy is fired, but he continues to investigate Marlee's death on his own, pumping police detectives whenever possible. There were two other women killed in the same way as Marlee, and a third, Clara Turner, has been deathly afraid of a shadowy fugitive called the Doctor. Then there's a suddenly vanished Karen; the fugitive doctor is dead; and a trail leads to Wilkes-Barre, back to Chicago, and to a final, hard-to-swallow d‚nouement. Fink's tension-fraught style and sensitive depiction of fragile, on-the-edge characters are overwhelmed by a rambling, near-incoherent plot. Readable but rudderless.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's