On the surface, Lisa Barkley seems to have it all — a husband who was her college sweetheart, two lovely daughters, a high-powered PR job, a residence in Manhattan, and a best friend she’s had since college. But Lisa’s life isn’t as perfect as it may seem on the outside.
- She is beginning to suspect her husband Sam might be having an affair — and the distance that has been growing between them seems insurmountable. In addition, she is startled to find herself feeling attracted to another man.
- Her daughters are pulling away from her — seemingly embarrassed to be seen with her.
- Her job hangs in the balance when her company is sold to another PR firm — and the new vice president seems hell bent on making Lisa’s life miserable.
- The financial pressures of living in Manhattan and sending her daughters to an expensive private school are taking a toll on the Barkley finances — but neither Sam or Lisa can talk together about the financial pressures they face.
- Her best friend Deirdre is in a volatile relationship with Ben — a dashing photographer who won’t commit to her and sometimes leaves her with bruises.
When Jack — an old college friend of Lisa, Sam and Deirdre — comes to town for a reunion dinner, it seems like things in Lisa’s life start to unravel all at the same time — Sam’s distance, job pressures, financial pressures, pressures to fit in at her daughters’ school, and Deirdre’s toying with both Jack and Ben. Just when it seems like things can’t get any worse, it does — Deirdre is found murdered in her apartment and no one (including Lisa) has an alibi. Driven to find out what happened to her best friend and put her life back together, Lisa must face the truth about herself, her husband, her friends and best friend — no matter how painful it might be.
When I was contacted about reading and reviewing this book, I was expecting a run-of-the-mill murder mystery. Now there is nothing wrong with murder mysteries. I certainly enjoy them from time to time. But I often find them to be a bit formulaic. But this one sounded a bit different from the norm, and the setting of Manhattan was intriguing so I said “Yes…please send me a copy.”
I was thrilled to find out that this book WAS NOT your standard murder mystery. Lisa’s character and the stresses of her life are very well-developed. In fact, the murder doesn’t happen until about two-thirds of the way through the book — giving you plenty of time to get to know all the characters and the stresses of Lisa’s life. For me, this made for a better-than-average mystery. I always like when an author takes the time to develop the characters rather than just focusing on the “who done it” or procedural aspects. In fact, I think the author could have skipped the whole murder part of it and still had a wonderful book about marriage, friendship, and the pressures of being a working mom. I really don’t think the book would have suffered at all had Deirdre lived.
I also like the little details the author works into the book that give it a ring of authenticity. For example, here is a passage from when Lisa’s husband is looking for some mittens for one of their daughters:
It occurs to me that he is not really asking for their likeliest location but prompting me to find them for him. I consider telling him to look for them himself but I don’t. The first attempt at ferreting out last winter’s accessories from the jumble of mismatched gloves, hats and scarves is an iffy proposition at best, especially for one with little experience in this type of archaeological dig.
I don’t know about you, but I very much related to this passage — finding gloves for the first time in a winter is a task best left up to Mom!
The other aspect of the book I liked was the setting of Manhattan. My family likes to visit New York City, and it was kind of fun to read about the Barkley’s life in the city and recognize some of the places where we had been on visits. Also, the sections where Lisa feels outclassed and intimidated by the mothers at her daughters’ elite private school were fascinating to me. It felt like getting a glimpse at secret society from an outsider’s perspective — kind of like falling into The Nanny Diaries but from a working mom’s point-of-view.
My Final Recommendation
This was a good read, and I would recommend it. If you are looking for a “by the books” procedural-type murder mystery, this might not be a good fit for you. To me, this was really more of a character-driven novel that just happens to have a murder in it.
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