cover image Trophy House

Trophy House

Anne Bernays, . . Simon & Schuster, $24 (258pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-7055-7

Is there an impulse stronger than lust—real estate lust, that is—for the comfortably middle-aged? Maybe not, teases Bernays (Professor Romeo , etc.) in this astute, witty romance, beguilingly set in the Cape Cod towns of Truro and Provincetown. Dannie Faber, a successful illustrator of children's books, is so attached to her beach house that she lives there April to November—even though she's frequently separated from husband Tom, a "gentle and distracted" MIT professor. It's a year after 9/11, and Dannie's Truro house has become a haven in a world where "civilization had cracked, setting people and events off in wild spinning." But then crass hotelier Mitch Brenner constructs a "monster house" distressingly nearby—and somebody writes "Jew Pig" in red paint (or is it blood?) on his front door. As Dannie and best friend Raymie speculate about the wrongdoer, readers may expect the plot to focus on the crime. But Bernays switches gears: Dannie turns inward as her marriage falls apart and she begins an affair with her New York editor; floundering daughter Beth moves back home; and Brenner makes a surprising alliance with Raymie. Though the plot is a bit untidy, readers will bond with Bernays's prickly, opinionated, bighearted heroine. Agent, Sterling Lord. (Aug.)