A mysterious woman, a breakup, and a man haunted by his bloody and dark past coalesce in Moore’s moody thriller.
Caleb, a toxicologist, is dealing with a terrible fight that ended when his girlfriend, Bridget, threw a glass at him, leaving his face bloodied, and then walked out. Now, he’s drowning his sorrows in a small, out-of-the-way bar called the House of Shields, trying to forget his torpedoed relationship. When a mysterious woman catches his eye, Caleb becomes obsessed with finding her but instead finds himself answering questions posed by two detectives from the San Francisco Police in conjunction with the disappearance of another man from the same bar. Caleb helps his best friend, Henry, who happens to be the medical examiner, run a toxicology analysis on a body that was found floating in the bay and finds that the man died from poison. As more bodies surface, Caleb connects with his mystery woman, and soon they're engaging in an odd relationship that may or may not have something to do with Caleb’s terrible past. Moore writes beautiful, careful prose and presents readers with an atmospheric story that’s often so obscured in fog it’s difficult to piece together exactly what’s happening. He keeps the reader in the dark about the reason for Bridget’s extreme reaction during their argument and what’s at the center of Caleb’s mysterious past. Where he excels is in the sensuousness of his writing: food, sex, alcohol—he fully engages all of the senses. Moore dribbles small amounts of information here and there, like bread crumbs, but he leaves the big questions of the sexy but strange woman, Caleb’s past, and the reason Bridget beaned him with a tumbler hanging until the very end, when everything is kinda-sorta explained.
Absinthe, oysters, the painter John Singer Sargent, a classic car, and a string of disturbing deaths, possibly brought about by poison, make this dark tale memorable.