A Town Like Alice's
The Sun Herald
Sunday January 17, 1993
IT'S a long way from Sichuan to Florida, but the inhabitants of Verity are locked into their own fight for survival.
Once a microdot on the map, Verity has been discovered.
"In the past few years, there has been an influx of newcomers, lured by the low rents and wild hibiscus.
As a result, Verity is now home to more divorced women than any other town in the State of Florida. None of these women had any idea of the sort of mess the month of May in Verity could make of their lives, any more than they knew what daily exposure to chlorine could do to their hair."
For Lucy Rosen, May brings the murder of one of her neighbours, Bethany Lee, and the disappearance of Lucy's delinquent son, Keith, and the woman's baby girl.
It also brings Julian Cash, the ugliest cop who ever trained a savage dog(he's in the K9 corps), into her life.
Julian Cash knows all about Keith, a 12-year-old "mean little Scorpio", who drinks, smokes and steals, because he used to be just like the boy.
In fact, as a teenager, he caused the death of his cousin in a car accident, and ended up in a correctional institution. Dogs turned Julian's life around, though he still doesn't get on with people all that well.
Turtle Moon is the story of how Lucy and Julian solve Bethany Lee's murder, but it's also about learning to trust, and about learning to love and let go. Lucy has to let Keith go back to his father and New York, "where the heat doesn't make you break out in red bumps, and every restaurant serves grits and Alligator Salad and some people have fathers", and Julian has to let go of his guilt.
This is a love story, a ghost story and a mystery. As usual, Hoffman scarcely puts a word wrong. She effortlessly sketches Verity, with its sticky heat and small-town ennui; her supporting characters are perfect miniatures; the erotic tension between Lucy and Julian is electric and the suspense builds like a tropical storm.
As in Heaven Sent, there's a lot of expertly-executed dog business in this novel. It was his rapport with dogs that saves Julian from going bad - "Julian knows what they say about him down at the station house: that he can't find anything right with human beings or anything wrong with dogs" - and his rogue german shepherd, Arrow, saves Keith's life.
My only reservation about this book is the ease with which Hoffman conveys aching poignancy. Tightly controlled in Seventh Heaven, this talent for pathos is occasionally in danger of shading into bathos in Turtle Moon.
It would be a pity to see such a fine writer go all sentimental on us.