Alena

Rachel Pastan, Author
Rachel Pastan. Riverhead, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59463-247-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-4526-6838-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-4526-1838-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-4526-4838-5
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-59463-292-1
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Hitchcockian suspense infiltrates the cloistered contemporary art scene in Pastan’s (Lady of the Snakes) riveting third novel. On her first trip to the Venice Biennale, the unnamed narrator, a naïve young curator, is taken under the wing of a wealthy, well-bred man named Bernard Augustin, who offers her the job of a lifetime at the Nauquasset, his jewel-box museum on Cape Cod, Mass. She seizes the opportunity, but not without some hesitation: all she knows about “the Nauk,” as it’s called, is that its previous curator, an enigmatic Russian beauty named Alena, disappeared two years ago under mysterious circumstances, and that her disappearance broke Bernard’s heart. Like the heroine of du Maurier’s Rebecca, Pastan’s unnamed protagonist finds herself competing futilely with a ghost. But Pastan refreshes the formula with a new soundtrack: the relentless, haunting roar of the sea—the perfect embodiment of the way Alena’s name echoes throughout the offices and galleries of the Nauk. Upon glimpsing the Atlantic, she says of it: “A pause, and then the beast drew another breath. A restless, endless, living sound. For a moment, as it filled my ears with its slow panting, I knew I had made a terrible mistake.” Flush with erotic intrigues and insights into real, working artists, Pastan has written a smart, chilling thriller that leaves readers thoroughly spooked. (Jan.)
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