A romance novel recalling the early years of Claire Breslinsky, heroine of Kelly’s mysteries (The Cordelia Squad, 2003, etc.), spent as a model in Europe and overland traveler to India.
Lacking obvious structure or direction, Kelly’s latest nevertheless flows unstoppably, pursuing petite Claire through the early 1970s on journeys from Milan to Munich, then via Istanbul and Herat to the Himalayas. Although “not beautiful, but my teeth were white and my smile captivating,” American Claire turns out to have looks that appeal in Germany and finds plenty of modeling work there, as well as a motley collection of bohemian friends with strange names, including Chartreuse (an Afghan artist), Tupelo Honig (a beautiful actress who seduces Claire) and Dr. Blacky von Osterwald, who is Tupelo’s boyfriend but also the object of Claire’s affection. One night, over a lavish dinner, the group decides to drive to India, meet the exiled Dalai Lama and make a film. Claire, an aspiring painter who has just been told she has more talent as a photographer, goes along to take the stills. The journey is long, dusty and perilous. Blacky and Claire make love at the top of the Bamiyan statues, then Claire falls ill with a fever. While the rest of the group goes on to India, Blacky takes care of Claire, explaining when she recovers that Tupelo has cancer. After more incidents, the group reunites in Dharamsala, where Tupelo dies, a baby is born, some film is shot and Claire decides she will leave Blacky to go back to her family in New York. The Dalai Lama was out of town.
The self-indulgent, unedited ramblings of an unpersuasive narrator.