Ambitious attempt to focus all manner of contemporary suburban malaise on one woman’s murder.
The floater lacks a head, and Riverside (NY) Police Chief Harold Baltimore’s first impulse is to dismiss the victim as somebody from the lesser side of the tracks, but the liposuction scars mark it, chillingly, as a local. And the missing-persons report online sports-memorabilia salesman Jeffrey Lanier files on returning from a trip to raise venture capital instantly makes it clear that his wife Sandi’s rounds of soccer carpooling and shopping expeditions for 22 Love Lane have come to an end. Budding photographer Lynn Stockdale Schulman is devastated, not just by the loss of her best friend, but by the way Det. Lt. Michael Fallon, a lifelong Riversider who recently lost his bid for the Chief’s job, is taking the opportunity of questioning her to rekindle their high-school romance. Indifferent to her loving husband Barry, an attorney whose biotech firm is having its own problems, and to her own indifference, Michael chats up Lynn, gropes her, pulls Barry over, and arrests him. When Barry, oblivious to just how touchy a history Lynn has with Michael, urges her to file a harassment suit against him, the pot boils so furiously that it’s hard to remember poor Sandi’s murder. But Michael’s loose-cannon behavior isn’t the only thing blurring Blauner’s focus. A torrent of exhaustively observed detail—the reactions of Lynn’s reading-circle friends, the reluctance of the Salvadorean immigrant who withdrew her harassment charges against Michael, the town’s ache over the locals killed in the World Trade Center—give it a sociological richness. Underneath, though, the story is starkly simple: Who loosed the snake in the designer garden, and what are the locals going to do about it?
Every gossipy soul has a job, a spouse, and a hidden past Blauner (Man of the Hour, 1999, etc.) knows all about. The result is a whodunit that thinks it’s an epic.