Breathless: 2a Novel

J. P. Smith, Author Viking Books $23.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-670-86046-3
After opening in violence and unexplained death, this thoughtful, patiently crafted interior novel set somewhere in contemporary New England, quickly relegates its murder mystery to the status of subplot, focusing instead on a new widow's investigation of her personal history and her suddenly altered future. When history professor Jill Bowman learns of her husband Peter's mysterious death (his throat cut with a razor in a seedy hot-sheet motel), she is forced to reexamine not only their relationship but many of the assumptions and conclusions that have led to her current understanding of herself. The revelation that Peter, a discreet Swiss psychiatrist, had been having an affair, further complicates her feelings. As Jill struggles to come to terms with her loss and aids detective David Resnick in his efforts to solve the apparent murder, she contemplates her relationships with her family, students, colleagues and past lovers; with her retarded daughter, Carrie, her late husband and their common friends; and with Resnick, who suddenly is becoming very important to her. Smith (The Blue Hour; The Discovery of Light) writes convincingly of his protagonist and her complex feelings and realizations. Occasional lapses in realism, especially in the dialogue, do not subvert an otherwise polished, insightful and resonant narrative. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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