Character-driven thriller, Arizona-set, follows restless souls as they skid into criminality and danger.
After her philandering husband Kevin dumps her, Helen “Mackie” Larkin struggles to make ends meet by cleaning offices. On a single day, she loses two prime cleaning jobs and gets a whopper of a bill from the IRS, the latter the result of one of Kevin’s several business shenanigans. Desperate for money, Mackie (a former dancer who dreams of opening her own studio) does the unthinkable: she takes a job at a “gentlemen’s club,” a high-end strip joint called Buckaroo’s. A long red wig and performance tips from dancer friend Angie (who made an impressive bankroll similarly employed) help transform Mackie from suburban mom to frank object of desire. Of course, she’s careful to keep her new job a secret from her brilliant teenaged daughter, Lianne. The club’s owner, a bearlike naturalized citizen named Buck Samsonov, takes a special interest in “Red,” something that alternately reassures and unnerves Mackie. Abrahams weaves two other major plot threads (and a couple of minor ones) around Mackie’s walk on the wild side: Kevin’s latest pie-in-the-sky scheme is a dude ranch called the Ocotillo. When he takes Lianne there, she falls under the romantic spell of a sexy (and married) wrangler named Jimmy Marz, who has plans to rob a bank and wants Lianne to play Bonnie to his Clyde. Nicholas Loeb, a sometime Buckaroo’s patron and insecure crime writer, makes the mistake of contacting an online critic who gave him a bad review. Mary Jane Krupsha accuses him of being ignorant of his subject and offers, a bit condescendingly, to help him. Before long, Loeb finds himself way over his head, immersed in real crimes. All these threads will lead to a single deadly event.
Surprise is a key ingredient for Abrahams (The Tutor, 2002, etc.). This time out, his believably flawed, engaging characters—and their unpredictable journeys—keep the pages turning.