Bad Chemistry

Gary Krist, Author
Gary Krist, Author Random House (NY) $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-679-44931-7
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
Mass Market Paperbound - 356 pages - 978-0-425-17300-8
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Another literary writer goes commercial--but Krist is no Catherine Pelletier. Unlike the author of Dancing at the Harvest Moon, Krist makes his move under his own name, hews to the theme--suburban desperation--that has run through his two praised story collections (Bone by Bone; The Garden State) and, above all, turns in a handsomely crafted, character-driven thriller about a woman searching for her missing husband. Kate Baker, a former cop from a family of Chicago cops, was brought up working-class but cherishes the new lifestyle she and her husband, Joel, enjoy in a wealthy D.C. suburb. Joel, once a privileged student radical, is now a wealthy, left-leaning entrepreneur who does designer drugs and sneers at his neighbors. One morning, Joel turns up missing. Enter the cops, who express scant interest in the case until a chemist working for Joel is found murdered and mutilated, with Joel being named the prime suspect. Unexpectedly, Kate gets a call from Evan Potter, the alienated teenager who found the body. She reluctantly enlists his help to break into Joel's computer records for clues to her husband's whereabouts. They eventually ferret out Joel's involvement in the discovery, through illegal means, of a ""billion-dollar molecule""--a cure for drug addiction. Unexpected twists, violent confrontations and modest suspense ensue. Eschewing the melodramatic climaxes that pump up most crime novels, Krist instead offers a low-key tale enriched by its deeply humane evocation of Kate, whose carefully erected world is falling apart, and its portrait of her and Evan's struggle to find courage and meaning amid the chaos. 75,000 first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild selection. (Jan.)
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