cover image The Heart-Shaped Box

The Heart-Shaped Box

April Henry. HarperCollins Publishers, $24 (273pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019655-4

Amateur sleuth Claire Montrose continues to beguile but is underutilized in her third appearance, following Square in the Face (2000) and the Agatha- and Anthony-Award-nominated Circles of Confusion (1999). At the 20th reunion for the Minor (Ore.) High School Class of '79, held at Ye Olde Pioneer Village Theme Park, some things haven't changed. Cindy is still a tease and a flirt, even if she does have a husband in tow. Sawyer was a dreamboat teacher; now he's a dreamboat politician and the guest of honor. Wade was strange then, but he's stranger now and was even institutionalized for a spell. Dick was a geek. Now he owns a high-speed modem company worth a fortune. He's still a geek. Claire was thin and shy and poor and smart. She's less poor now and the presence of Dante, her handsome boyfriend, ought to make her feel more confident. But reunions have a way of resurrecting old insecurities. Several women at the western-themed opening night receive mysterious presents: small, handcarved boxes. Cindy gets one before she dies in the theme park parking lot. The nondescript Kyle, a cop and a member of the returning class, does most of the sleuthing. Alert readers will ignore the slew of overly obvious suspects and quickly arrive at the true identity of the killer. The selection of cute vanity plates (Claire's previous job was vetting plate applications for hidden obscenities) at the end of each chapter are worth a thin smile at best. (Feb. 2)