Debut novelist Jackson tells the story of a world-weary Texan woman at a yoga ashram in this comic thriller.
Forty-year-old Wendy Tate’s third marriage is on the rocks. Her husband recently had an affair with a younger co-worker, and her own psychiatrist proves useless for anything other than comic relief. Deciding to distract herself by getting a certificate in yoga instruction, the Texas-raised Wendy leaves her home in Boston for an ashram outside Louisville, Kentucky. “An ashram is a place where I can go to change my life,” she explains to her skeptical mother. “Then I’ll come back to Texas and open a little studio and make my living as a yoga teacher.” However, Wendy’s initial impressions of the place aren’t great: the dormitories are in a converted roadside motel; the staff and students are odd, both in appearance and in personality; and the swami who serves as the community’s guru is a nonsensical old man. As Wendy sniffs at the meager food and sneaks cigarettes, meat, and booze between classes, she begins to question her decision to come to the ashram at all—until she discovers an undercover FBI agent on the property who’s investigating whether the yogi retreat is actually a cult. The agent needs a partner, and Wendy may be the only student who’s cynical enough to help him take the ashram down. Jackson writes in a sharp, easy-flowing prose that manages to capture the sardonic voice of her protagonist: “The day was lovely, the sun was shining, she was in the beautiful state of Kentucky, and Wendy already wanted to kill someone.” The plot moves at a quick clip, and the tone is light enough that even the narrative’s most unusual aspects feel believable. Some of the plot twists are rather easy to anticipate, and readers may be somewhat disappointed by the unsurprising ending, but on the whole, the reading experience is enjoyable, compelling, and leisurely. It’s one of those rare books that ends too soon, which will leave its audience primed for more series installments.
A fast mystery that benefits from the author’s comedic tilt.