In a modern day scenario lifted straight from Nabakov’s “Lolita,” we are transported to New England where Frenchman Tristan Mouralt has installed his new love, Gisele, a fifteen-year old teenager with stars in her eyes and adventure in her heart. As in the afore mentioned novel a young girl is seduced and plied with sexual favors, had her name changed and poses as the daughter rather than the lover of a man much too old for her amorous attention.
Not an original plot line and one that Europeans are supposed to take as matter-of-fact, as they are deemed to be more opened-minded their counterparts in the States. It is however here that Ryder—in her debut novel—takes us down new found paths in this uniquely told, if somewhat awkwardly titled, mystery.
Settling into the new town, making friends in the art world, one that is familiar to Tristan who is rumored to have a world-renowned collection of impressionist masterpieces, the two make a life for themselves for the next fifteen years. Tristan is surrounded by artists and flim-flam men, rogues and curators and he foists a husband on to Gisele, formerly Karen Miller of San Francisco, an aspiring artist Luke who helps keep up appearances, especially now that Gisele has a daughter of her own, Nicola.
The plan seems to work until Luke has an extra-marital fling while on the West coast on business, with Amanda, a young blonde student. When she follows him, after he tried to break-up, and discovers his real wife is the sister she thought was dead years ago, the drama is ratcheted up a notch as Ryder takes us on a closely contained edgy ride atop a powder keg. When Gisele’s body is discovered you decide if this is a murder or a suicide and which of the culprits just lit the match. BANG!