cover image Death of the Black-Haired Girl

Death of the Black-Haired Girl

Robert Stone. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-618-38623-9

In Stone’s latest bulletin from the dark side of the human condition, brilliant college student Maud Stack is having an affair with her English advisor, Steve Brookman, whose wife, Ellie, is expecting their second child. When Steve tries to distance himself from Maud, it leads to tragedy. The book is not so much a whodunit as an expressionistic collage of how others in this New England college town deal with the tragic event. They include college counselor Jo Carr, a former nun in South America who is haunted by clashes between people stuck in a “struggle toward mutual extermination”; Maud’s widower father, Eddie, a Queens detective; Lou Salmone, the local cop who has to make sense of the senseless; and Shell Magoffin, Maud’s roommate, who is being stalked by her ex. A “thuggish” academic, Steve may not be the most believable character, and Ellie’s response to his infidelity might not be the most credible. But Stone (Damascus Gate) imbues his characters with a rare depth that makes each one worthy of his or her own novel. With its atmosphere of dread starting on page one, this story will haunt readers for some time. Agent: Neil Olson, Donadio & Olson. (Nov.)