Kindness of Strangers

Julie Smith, Author
Julie Smith, Author Ballantine Books $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-449-90937-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 358 pages - 978-0-8041-1273-4
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Dogged by depression, Skip Langdon takes a leave of absence from the New Orleans PD, but--Skip being Skip--the dramatic finale of the supposed rest cure nearly costs her life. To keep busy, she investigates mayoral candidate Errol Jacomine, minister of a multicultural church who is seen as an honest champion of society's underdogs. Skip, however, has long thought him to be a manipulative psychopath. She tries to contact a disaffected ex-member of Jacomine's church but learns that the woman is already dead. Soon, the police station is flooded with calls complaining of Skip's persecution of the good reverend. Skip's oldest friend calls, endorsing Jacomine, and Boo Leydecker, her new therapist, terminates their sessions because her husband is Jacomine's press agent. Skip begins to feel as though the man is everywhere, controlling reality. Nor is there much comfort on the home front, as Sheila Ritter, ward of Skip's best friend, is drawn into a worrying friendship that, like all roads in this story, eventually leads back to Jacomine. Although that aspect of the plotting does occasionally strain credibility, its claustrophobic impact effectively reflects Skip's frame of mind. Even more intriguing is Smith's (House of Blues) exploration of how difficult it is to hang on to reality, especially when surrounded by others who construct their realities (personal and public) out of comforting fictions. (July)
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