Skeletons popping out of 40-year-old Dallas closets create havoc for four old school friends in Goldman’s heartfelt but unconvincing debut.
Back in Gaston Junior High in the years before JFK’s assassination forever stained the city’s name, the alphabetical seating chart in their classroom made Lindsey Wilson and Annie Williams best friends. They shared tastes, dreams, confidences and even a boyfriend. Now Lindsey, unhappily married to Sen. James “Buddy” Mitchell, is dead after a drug-aided fall that wasn’t suspicious enough to be investigated—or was covered up by one of her husband’s influential friends. David Matthews, the former Gaston bad boy who cleaned up his act and became a criminal-defense attorney, has come into possession of Annie’s journal, which is full of earth-shattering revelations: forbidden romance, abortion, secret childbirth. Nor is the journal the only thing that’s floated to the surface. So has Annie, who’s continued to be close to David even though she’s never met his wife Taylor. And bad-girl Roberta “Butter” Duplissey, another Gaston alum who resurfaces just long enough to get shot to death. And Annie’s old friend Frances Zacchoias, a Greek restaurateur who knows more than he’s telling about malfeasance past and present. Goldman’s model seems to be Jackie Collins, but her vintage secrets are so predictable and decorous that the result is more like an updated Peyton Place shorn of absorbing characters (even David, whose wife hopefully calls him “a very complex man,” doesn’t seem to be up to much), genuine mystery or even any detailed evocation of a specific milieu—all of these goodies are repeatedly invoked rather than created.
The story hopscotches among so many potential centers of interest—from Lindsey’s blind mother to police detective Jake Malone to a pair of grave robbers-for-hire—that it has no time to bring any of them to life.