Megan E. Abbott, Author . Simon & Schuster $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7432-6170-8

A velvety 1950s Southern California vibe suffuses this noirish novel about a young woman who sacrifices her own innocence while trying to protect her brother from the seamy side of life. Orphaned when they were children, Bill and Lora King live together well into adulthood, until Bill meets Alice Steele, a beautiful damsel in distress whose mysterious past and even more mysterious present set off alarms for Lora. Ere long Bill, a junior investigator in the district attorney's office, proposes to Alice and the two marry, but Lora becomes increasingly sure there's more to Alice's murky past than the alcoholic mother and deadbeat father she talks about. "Under the harsh lamp, in sharp contrast to the dark room, her eyes look strangely eaten through. The eyes of a death mask..." Lora makes self-deprecating Nancy Drew jokes even as she initiates a personal investigation, skulking around seedy motor courts and hiding in alleys. What the likable Lora discovers—drugs, sex, corruption and murder—fascinates her as much as it frightens her. Abbott, author of a nonfiction study of hard-boiled literature and film, crafts a stylish, sensuous tale with picture-perfect period trappings. Agent, Paul Cirone at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Forecast: Fifties fetishists (even collectors) will love Abbott's elaborate mise-en-scènes: "Pyrex hostess sets for picnics on back lawns, Klise Frosted Oak relish boats and cheese boards with Lucite inserts, Manta Ray centerpiece bowls with a chic black glaze.... "

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Hardcover - 327 pages - 978-0-7862-7646-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-4001-3151-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-4001-5151-6
Paperback - 241 pages - 978-1-84739-346-3
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