cover image Total Eclipse

Total Eclipse

Liz Rigbey. Pocket Books, $22 (472pp) ISBN 978-0-671-79579-5

When beautiful Julia Fox is accused of murdering her husband and stepdaughter, her lover, an astronomer named Lomax, assists the defense team investigating the crime. But to his dismay, Lomax uncovers evidence that helps the prosecution more than the defense: a history of antagonism between Julia and her step-daughter, Gail; hints of incest between Gail and her lawyer father; a huge withdrawal from Julia's trust fund that may have been a blackmail payment. Complicating matters are the dead man's membership in a club that caters to peculiar sexual tastes, and Lomax's obsessive jealousy of Julia. Set in and around an unnamed California observatory, which serves as the source of a subplot about celestial distortions that neatly ties into the main story line, Rigbey's first novel boasts gripping courtroom sequences, a driving style and believable characters--but only up to a point. The trouble is that the plot climaxes in what is clearly meant to be a stunning surprise--but it's one that many readers will have guessed long before. And once the secret is out so are the author's manipulations, which now appear obvious, as does the lack of discernment in otherwise intelligent characters. Still, excepting this major flaw, this is a well-written and engrossing debut, tailored for a hot summer day's read. Major ad/promo. (July)