A perfect murder takes its psychological toll on a shy, conscientious girl.
In 1965, when she’s 16, Carole Mason, all in one night, loses her virginity and her future as a good Manhattan upper-middle-class girl. Carole, a lawyer’s daughter, passes for a social outcast at Spence, the exclusive girls’ school she attends, by dint of her plump figure and her family’s roots in suburban New Jersey. As the story begins, Carole’s slender, careless, rich girlfriend Naomi has convinced her to take turns having sex with Eddie, a handsome 26-year-old unemployed actor, during a school ski vacation in Vermont. But Eddie has invited a surprise tutor—Rita, a 28-year-old working-class woman from town—and the combination of alcohol and Eddie’s exotic sexual predilections results in Rita’s death. Eddie and Naomi conspire to hide the body—and to convince Carole that she’s the one who killed Rita. The impressionable Carole believes them and spends most of the next decade in guilt and flight, sacrificing all contact with her family, her education at Vassar, her social position, and her inheritance. She makes her way first to San Francisco, where she holes up in a hippie commune with Rachel, a former teenage mother, and Rachel’s young son, Pepper; then to Vermont, where she starts a restaurant and takes a lover, Will, a kind, decent survivalist guy who, being black, is nonetheless a dicey choice in ’70s Vermont. The vile Eddie dogs Carole at every turn, showing up in unlikely guises to disrupt each new phase of her life. When Eddie and the equally repugnant Naomi team up, marry, and move to town, the scene is set for a second lethal showdown—which, though inventively plotted, is less psychologically satisfying than Carole’s fraught reunion with her cold yet surprisingly kind father.
Nicely written first effort, though the sensational plot often undercuts what might have been a sophisticated take on the murder-mystery genre.