Larissa Demming, 47, mother of two grown children and wife of a terminally distracted academic and writer, Bart, seeks solace at her Minnesota summer home by packing a picnic and reading a mystery, "Murder at Montmorency."
"When I feel unsettled," she tells us, "a mystery in which sophisticated, chatty Londoners motor down to someone's place in the country for a fatal house party usually settles me." And at first, "Mrs. Demming and the Mythical Beast" promises to be just that--chatty, filled with stock characters and pleasant settings, and just enough plot to keep you going.
But Faith Sullivan packed her story too full of family conflict, crumbling marriages, environmental fights (rotten developers from Texas, no less), incest, and the beast of the title. Had it worked, the novel would have been John Fowles plus Oedipus Rex. It is pleasant enough in parts, but when the writer tries to have it both ways--fantastical and realistic--the work dies from too much exposition.
As the book unfolds, Larissa realizes that she can't stand her husband, that she is in love with her friend Harry, that her daughter finds her insufferable.