Furman's debut novel (her first book, The Glass House, was a novella plus stories) is an occasionally evocative but hopelessly tangled attempt at multi-level fiction--part identity crisis, part essay, part mystery. On the plainest level, Furman charts the edging-into-adulthood of a young New York journalist named Liz Gold. Divorced from a draft-evader husband (who later dies mysteriously), Liz is holding off final commitment to David, a lawyer in Houston, where she also now lives. But Houston, the city itself, soon becomes the novel's alternate subject: Liz's life there as a stranger, a transplant; days of figuring out which streets lead where, of visiting thrift-shops, getting haircuts. And eventually the third--and weakest--narrative layer rises: Liz, freelancing for a local magazine edited by her old friend Cal, researches a story that eventually dredges up old secrets about Cal and a homosexual ex-lover--as some solid nuts-and-bolts investigative reporting leads to revelations involving a murder-mystery in a vaguely Ross Macdonald mode. Unfortunately, however, the novel's three elements never cohere despite the thematic links (Houston as a non-place, Liz's as a non-life, secrets as a non-sense). And, though Furman works hard at an atmospherically lyric treatment of Liz and her hesitations (""the shadow line"" of the title), the general effect is one of torpor. Except for those interested in a doleful tour of Houston: sluggish storytelling, with only flickers of Furman's modest talent.