Ruby Murphy works at the Coney Island Museum, lives in Coney Island with her two cats, who dine on organic turkey meat, and hangs out with a variety of friends who, in their superficial grotesquerie, would belong in an amusement park if only they were amusing. On a hot subway, Ruby impulsively pretends to well-dressed, scarred Ariel DiCello that she’s a private detective. Heedless of Ruby’s subsequent confession, Ariel promptly hires her to follow her boyfriend Frank, who works at Belmont Race Track and seems to be up to hanky-panky. Ariel, who lives at the Chelsea Hotel, where Sid Vicious died—a typically indiscriminate detail that may be a clue, or just clueless—gets Ruby a job at the track as a “hot-walker,” someone who exercises horses after they race. Ruby doesn’t like getting up at dawn, but she loves horses and snoops around as best she can between practicing yoga and piano, comforting a friend after a botched breast augmentation, and nursing an old boyfriend dying of cancer. Frank, it turns out, is indeed fooling around on Ariel, but his real betrayal may involve a strange sort of loyalty. Even so, Ruby manages to protect another victim, identify the villain, and buy more turkey for her cats.
Inexplicably, Estep (Soft Maniacs, 1999, etc.) alternates Ruby’s cheerfully oblivious perspective with several other first-person voices. They all sound remarkably similar, making for an undifferentiated if pleasant narrative of aimless longing that the murder mystery, Estep’s first, never disturbs.