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I don't believe in destiny," the narrator of Susanna Moore's unsettling new novel asserts. "I do not believe in coincidence...most behavior is neither accidental nor haphazard...I do not think that any of the things that have happened to me in the last two weeks are the result of chance." While searching for a bathroom in a neighborhood bar she has stumbled across a couple having sex, the man in shadow. The young woman is murdered that night, perhaps the victim of a serial killer.
Frannie is a linguist and a teacher, single, observing with ironic detachment the twilit world of her Greenwich Village neighborhood. She is, only half reluctantly, drawn into the homicide investigation, allowing herself to drift into an affair with one of the detectives, a charming but cryptic figure who "wished to remain elusive, even to himself." He sports a tattoo much like the one she had noticed on that shadowy figure in the bar. "I can be," her lover assures her, "whatever you want me to be." In all things but sex (their encounters, described in a startlingly frank and precise manner, are among the most graphic in recent fiction), he is wary of her, dismissive. "I reminded myself," the narrator notes in passing, that men "have to despise us in order to come near us, in order to overcome their terrible fear of us."
She is attacked on a dark street, possibly by the murderer. Other men -- a disaffected friend who seems to want to confess something, a student angered by her work on a dictionary of street slang ("People like you think the brothers are guinea pigs") -- seem increasingly odd, menacing. If Frannie, proud of her "incautious adaptability," of her skill at reaching precise answers ("You're always looking for something more," her lover tells her, "and sometimes you get it wrong") really doesn't believe in chance, what does her increasingly dangerous situation mean? Does she want an answer, or is she allowing herself to become the killer's next victim? Susanna Moore has written a ferociously powerful erotic thriller illuminating, in a language both terse and resonant, the manner in which passion, anger and madness can converge. -- Salon