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by M.J. Rose

Pub Date: July 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-345-45104-X
Publisher: Ballantine

Courtroom drama adds texture and suspense to Rose’s third tale (In Fidelity, 2001, etc.) of crime, lust, and obsession.

Documentary filmmaker Genny Haviland stands accused of murdering her lover Slade Gabriel, a brilliant but volatile modern painter. Genny’s first-person account of the 1992 trial counterpoints flashbacks spanning 20 years. The two first meet in 1972, when Gabriel is installing a new exhibit at the respected Haviland Gallery on 57th Street, owned by Genny’s imperious father Jonathan. Gabriel, 37, flirts outrageously with Genny, 17, unaware either of her age or her surname. (The elder Havilands are vacationing in Europe.) He thinks she’s a twentysomething graduate student working at the gallery, and she does nothing to disabuse him as the dark and passionate Gabriel sweeps unworldly but adventurous Genny off her feet. Their torrid affair ends only when discovery by her father seems inevitable. Genny goes on to a successful professional life and an unfulfilled personal one (failed marriage and no children), but she never tells her father about her relationship with Gabriel, who prospers at the Haviland Gallery. The spark is rekindled after Gabriel and Haviland are in a serious car accident. Gabriel’s injuries trigger a downward slide that, Genny later asks the jury (and the reader) to believe, led her to an assisted suicide rather than a murder. The prosecution is led by ruthless DA Linda Zavidow, who portrays the crime as part revenge, part family loyalty. Gabriel planned (or maybe only threatened) to leave Haviland for a trendier rival gallery after Haviland was implicated in a forgery scandal. Zavidow delights in introducing potentially salacious aspects of Genny’s life that include an abortion, an inappropriately intimate relationship with her father, and a dash of lesbianism, all presented as allegations that keep the reader guessing.

A lush story dressed in upscale detail and brand names, with a tight pace and silky surface. Underneath the surface, though, is just more surface.