A cunning, elegantly written comedy of manners in the form of a murder mystery in which a psychoanalyst finds her wealthy clientele dropping. Literally.
Freudian analyst Nora Goodman carries a caseload that one presumes is a representative sample of the upper tier of San Antonio society, from a taciturn chemistry instructor unhappily married to an oil heiress to a polymorphously perverse doctor to an embittered divorcée taking out her lifelong resentments on Goodman—who has her own issues, starting with a manipulative, patronizing psychiatrist husband, two rambunctious children and some unresolved feelings toward her dead parents. The last thing Nora needs is more tsoris. But that’s just what she gets as, one by one, the people in her appointment book meet sudden, violent ends. The police believe these deaths to be accidents or coincidences; and since Nora, being a dedicated Freudian, believes in neither, she seeks help from an ex cop–turned–private detective named Mike Ruiz, whose sneering contempt for Freud seems to be shielding his own private demons. You’d think being in a world populated by such tightly wound neurotics would get dreary or annoying, or both. But Lawson, herself a San Antonio–based psychoanalyst making her publishing debut, makes the journey a pleasant one with a witty, assured narrative style that renders both physical and emotional scenery with economical astuteness and grace. The way the story ends makes you think there’s the barest chance Nora and Mike could continue their spiky relationship into another novel. And why not? If San Antonio can support a pro basketball franchise with five championships, it certainly deserves a classy crime-solving tandem staking a claim for the city in the mystery genre.
Remember how amazed Norman Mailer was after reading George V. Higgins’ first novel that a member of “the fuzz” could write so well? Well, let it likewise be asserted of Lawson: This shrink can really throw it down.