Smarting from the wound of her husband’s desertion, a young professional architect nevertheless tries to win him back in Fisher’s (Vanilla Republic, 2009, etc.) novel.
New Yorker Justine Rosenstein is not one to give up easily. The Riviera Maya might not quite qualify as the ends of the Earth, but she is ready to travel there to track down her husband, a Belarusian named Sergey Tchigorin. Never mind that she hears about his whereabouts from a mysterious woman, Jessica Mayfield; Justine is convinced she can work her charms on her husband all over again and make him see the error of his ways. But it’s complicated. Considering how he vanished right after his dissertation adviser at Columbia was shot dead, Sergey’s disappearance from New York could not have been more poorly timed, and the cops have been hot on his trail. Mom is also worried about Justine visiting Mexico alone, so she sets her up with a travel companion, fellow middle-school teacher Richard Furman. Hints at a possible liaison between the assassinated professor and secret Iranian agents set the story off to a promising start. Unfortunately, the waters are muddied further by increasingly implausible plotlines involving Mexico’s war on drugs, Iranian subterfuge, a wily North Carolina stockbroker-turned–church leader named Bobby the Banker, and even Afghanistan’s Haqqani network. Characters all come with tremendous baggage, which weighs the novel down even as the story careens out of control to its surprise ending. It’s also difficult to buy into the characters’ motivations. Sure, Furman feels he is repaying a debt of gratitude to Justine’s mom by being her daughter’s travel companion, and yes, he is attracted to Justine, but that still doesn’t explain his heavy emotional (and financial) investment. Numerous misplaced punctuation marks throughout are an added distraction. While many established structural elements—changes in narrative perspective, parallel plotlines, elements of suspense—are in place, they aren’t corralled into a disciplined whole. The sights and many delicious foods of Mexico are sadly not enough to salvage a confused story.
An ambitious novel that falls short
of its lofty goals.