Twenty Questions

Alison Clement, Author
Alison Clement, Author . Atria $23 (273p) ISBN 978-0-7432-7266-7
Reviewed on: 05/15/2006
Release date: 07/01/2006

This might have been a fairly typical murder mystery were it not for the compelling protagonist at its center: June Duvall, a smalltown woman who works at an elementary school cafeteria. Her life changes when Ronald Pruett is arrested for strangling Vernay Hanks, a local waitress; June had declined a ride from Pruett a day earlier, thus changing her fate (or so she believes). Perhaps out of survivor's guilt, June decides to befriend Vernay's daughter, Cindy, and gruff, laconic brother Harlan, who has reluctantly become Cindy's caretaker. As June slowly becomes more involved in Harlan's and Cindy's lives, the state of her decade-long marriage becomes questionable; when she unravels the true circumstances around Vernay's murder, her life is turned upside-down. Clement's subtle prose renders June's existential pondering and anxious thoughts convincingly, and the novel's intriguing plot elements click. Clement, an elementary school librarian in western Oregon, makes a fine debut. (July)

The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!