The sophomore effort from Marinovich (Strange Skies, 2007) is a dark and ever darkening psychological thriller set in a bleak Hamptons winter.
It starts with promise and with psychological finesse: young Brooklyn couple Scott and Elise have retreated to Shinnecock Hills to tend to her dying father. Elise spends days at the hospital with the captious, malevolent patient while Scott, a photographer, grows stir-crazy in the old man’s solitary bayside house. Narrator Scott is smart about his floundering marriage: “misery is just another art form, as hard to perfect as any other craft, only we aim to leave nothing behind. We’re the copper thieves of our own houses, ripping out our own wires.” In a misguided quest for excitement, Scott breaks into an abandoned summer place next door, and when that venture provides the transgressive jolt he needs, he recruits his wife for a return visit. Their trespass leads to a grisly discovery and, from there, into a welter of interlocking scandals and intrigues involving the father, Elise, her jailbird brother, and the Winter Girl of the title.
The novel’s second half devolves into a noisy, almost parodic noir, with too much coincidence, too many nested secrets, and too many people acting according to motives that seem cooked up in a laboratory where someone’s trying to purify blackheartedness. But it all moves briskly, and the beginning is compelling enough to keep the reader turning pages.