cover image Cha Cha Cha

Cha Cha Cha

Jane Heller. Zebra, $18.95 (342pp) ISBN 978-0-8217-4615-8

This debut novel by a publishing insider reads like a pallid imitation of Susan Isaacs, complete with a pampered Jewish housewife as sleuth. Alison Waxman Koff and her affluent husband live by the credo of Wall Street 's Gordon Gecko--``greed is good''--but their financial assets in upscale Layton, Conn., vanish in the crash of '87. Alison must do without her shopping trips, her manicures and eventually her husband, who returns to his first wife. Heavily in debt, she takes a job doing what she knows best: cleaning house. She becomes a maid for Melanie Moloney, a vitriolic, odious writer of sleazy biographies who is currently engaged in exposing the sins of Layton's leading citizen, a former Hollywood actor and U.S. senator. When Melanie is murdered, the inept local constabulary ignore the lengthy list of suspects and arrest Alison, who fights back with some unique weapons--even enlisting the aid of her loathsome mother. Heller's pursuit of humor is relentlessly heavy-handed, and her onslaught of lame wisecracks combines with stereotypical characters to further subvert her unsurprising story. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates; author tour. (July)