Mike Nichols, Author, Michael Nichols, Author . Morrow $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-273423-5

"That is what I want to tell you. That, here, now, with what follows, is what I need you to know." Readers tantalized by those sentences may come away from this debut suspenser by a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel feeling somewhat let down. In Droughton, Minn., lawyer Sandy Cross, "a woman of uncommon gifts"—and uncommon family wealth—marries, beneath her station, newspaper reporter Will Dunby. When Sandy fails to return home one March night, Will discovers that her car has gone over a cliff outside of town. "It looks like a suicide attempt," says the local police chief. Was it, or was it something more sinister? While Sandy is kept alive on a respirator, a multitude of Droughton folk act out the surrounding drama. There's Dr. Moylan, whose affair with Sandy leads to his death, and Haley, a law colleague of Sandy's and ex-paramour of Will's who has an 11th-hour secret up her sleeve. And what about Billi Stroud, a 20-something female cop who's busted for a police department infraction and who may have something to do with the town "bad boy," who's gone missing? Unfortunately, Nichols's writing, despite a fair amount of dialogue, is for the most part almost reportorial in style, making it difficult for the reader to care about these characters or connect with the plot's twists and turns. He's more successful with the humanistic elements—found in scenes concerning Stone Soup, a women's shelter for which Sandy provided legal counsel, as well as in the ongoing discussions between Will and Sandy's mother about euthanasia, which demonstrate a nice ear for human foibles. There's just not enough of a payoff, however, to justify this story's many disparate elements—too much plotting for too little effect. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/17/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-06-277133-9
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