Discovering the Body

Mary Howard, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-688-17156-8
Don't expect the unexpected from this soap operatic suspense novel about a smalltown Iowa murder witness who marries the victim's bereaved lover. From the first page, when a puddle of spilled tomato juice reminds Linda Garbo of the day she discovered Luci Cole's slashed body, heavy foreshadowing and familiar themes choke this sultry drama. When Linda, a printmaker and graphic designer, first moves to Linden Grove, she stays with her old art school friend Luci and Luci's lover, beekeeper Charlie Carpenter. Luci's brutal murder soon after throws Linda and Charlie together, and a year later they marry. Two years after the trial, in which their neighbor Peter Garvey was convicted, Linda and Charlie are struggling to forget the horrible crime (difficult since they live in the house where the murder occurred). John Bender, a local reporter who believes in Garvey's innocence, persuades Linda to meet Garvey. The prisoner, who has previously admitted that he was Luci's spurned lover, tells Linda that Luci kept a secret journal. Although Charlie assures Linda that no diary exists, Linda finds her friend's writings in the margins of an art book. They detail Luci's self-destructive flirtations, including one with a religious counselor aroused by her confessions. Linda also uncovers the secrets of a troubled teenager, local drug traffickers, a blackmailer and, of course, her own husband. First-time novelist Howard nicely captures the essence of rural Iowa, the work of beekeeping and the art of etching. Dialogue between Linda and the reporter has an understated Midwestern charm. Unfortunately, Howard's evident determination to create a bestseller by cramming her novel full of daytime television concerns--deep sexual psychology, childhood trauma, male villains and triumphant heroines--proves as fatal and obvious as Luci's misguided affairs. Regional author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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