The unlikely friendship between a small-town school secretary and a flamboyant teacher proves deadly in this psychological murder mystery.
Jeanne narrates the story of the ill-fated friendship. She is repressed, frustrated and generally miserable in her marriage to Gavin, a controlling orthopedic surgeon. To offset Gavin, Jeanne overindulges Jamie, her 16-year-old son who is seriously overweight and has learning problems. Ali, a musician recently separated from her adoring lawyer husband, is already the focus of gossip about her wayward love life when she begins teaching at the school. Jeanne begins giving Ali rides to work. Despite disapproving of the way Ali is carrying on several love affairs, Jeanne finds herself drawn in by Ali’s zest and charm. In return, Ali calls Jeanne her conscience. Then Ali finds evidence that she is being stalked. After sheets of music are defaced, Jeanne recognizes that Jamie may be the culprit. But Gavin refuses to discuss the problem, and when she confronts Jamie, he explains away his behavior as a childish prank. Under the stress of her suspicions, Jeanne starts popping pills, which Gavin happily prescribes. As both Gavin and Jamie spend more and more time away, Jeanne worries not only that Jamie is a stalker but that Gavin and Ali are having an affair. The truth proves much worse, for characters and readers both, as debut novelist Francis falls back on the tired shock value of sexual abuse (not to mention an obvious red herring) to drive her plot. Jeanne discovers Gavin is actually having sex with a male cello player. She leaves town to sort things out despite Jamie’s plea that she not leave him alone with his father. While she’s away, Ali turns up dead and Jamie is arrested for murder. Francis gives her characters, even the monster Gavin, some dimension, and the mother-son relationship is genuinely creepy.
Psychologically interesting, but weakened by melodrama.