A moody murder mystery infused with love and grief—and a fascination with Emily Dickinson.
"Because I am a student of literature, I will start my story on the day Charlie died. In other words, I'm beginning in the middle." This is Brett Mercier, named by her English-professor parents after Hemingway's Lady Brett Ashley and herself a scholar of American Renaissance poetry. She meets her future husband at college in Colorado through his brother Eli, a pre-med student, her good friend. After one unforgettable night of love and cross-country skiing, Charlie disappears. The next year, she loses Eli too, when he's sucked under by schizophrenia. By the time the brothers reappear in her life, Brett is in grad school, engaged to someone else. De Gramont’s (Gossip of the Starlings, 2008, etc.) latest boasts lovely, understated writing, sharply drawn settings—Boulder, Amherst, and Cape Cod—and, once again, characters who are irresistibly attractive, flawed, and dangerous. "This wasn't a murder mystery," Brett announces to the reader late in the novel. It is a murder mystery, actually, as is any book that starts with a homicide and ends by revealing the culprit. But it is also an emotionally intense study of how a transcendent love becomes a fraying marriage, buckling under the weight of financial troubles, early parenthood, Brett's frustration at having no time to work on her research, and Charlie...just being Charlie. By the time crazy ol' Eli shows up for an unwanted visit, setting in motion the events of the horrible day, the couple and their baby are living in a ramshackle beach house borrowed from the brothers' dad. Eli is in the yard freaking out when Brett arrives and finds the body, then he runs. He must have done it, right?
A fine literary whodunit from an accomplished storyteller.