A domestic tragedy, complete with a violent murder, Rice's third novel goes beneath the veneer of her usual family odes (Angels All Over Town, 1985; Crazy in Love, 1988) to expose the dark depths of love gone awry. It's no accident that the featured family here is named Dark or that the heroine, Maria Dark, is an archeologist, trained to delve through ruins and piece together old secrets. But Rice's writing is powerful enough to carry off the obvious. She hooks us from the early scenes when Maria, returning home to Connecticut after years spent in Peru and other exotic places, discovers that her beloved sister, Sophie, is behaving strangely. She steals things. She is cruel to her young children and slavelike to her aloof husband. Maria, recovering from her own broken marriage, doesn't really want to explore this territory. She'd prefer to have her sister's family life be as picturesque as it appears at first glance. But even as Maria is establishing her own new ground--she finds a lover, a nice place to live, and an archeology project, all in short order--Sophie's life is falling apart. And, finally, the hidden problems come to the surface in such a shocking way that they can't be ignored, not even by Maria and Sophie's ever-denying mother, Hallie. All of this is not to say that Rice has abandoned her romantic ideals about families and love. In fact, a minor quibble with her story here is how quickly she sets Maria up with the perfect new man, the perfect cottage by the sea, etc. For the most part, however, the contrast between romance and reality is what gives this novel its wonderful, terrifying, always compelling tension. This time, Rice shows us both sides of the picture--light and Dark. In all, it's electrifying.