I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t read Compromising Positions, Susan Isaacs’ best-selling story of Judith Singer, the suburban mom who unexpectedly discovered she had a real knack for solving a murder. My affection for the character largely developed from the fact that I have seen the movie (starring Susan Sarandon and the late, much lamented Raul Julia) at least ten times. In fact, it’s one of those movies – and we all know how it is when you have a gazillion cable channels – that I watch every time I get the chance.
Now, some twenty years later, Susan Isaacs picks up Judith’s story and the results – for this reader, at any rate – are tremendous. Long Time No See is fast-paced, funny, perceptive, and features a cast of terrific characters and a nifty mystery that kept me intrigued right until the end. And, if anybody out there has been longing for an older heroine who is every bit as interesting and romantically viable as all those twenty year-olds, then this is your book.
Now a widow in her mid-fifties, the long-time resident of Shorehaven – an affluent Long Island community – teaches history at a nearby college. Her children are grown and Judith’s life is quiet, unexciting, and content – even if she is occasionally preoccupied with what-might-have-been thoughts about Nelson Sharpe, the cop with whom she had an affair in Compromising Positions. But all that changes when a perky young mom mysteriously disappears and, some months later, is found murdered. Judith’s investigative bug gets the better of her and, before you know it, she finds herself hired by the murdered mom’s father-in-law, a well known mob figure, to solve the crime and, with any luck, turn suspicion away from his son.
Of course, Judith’s investigation sends her into a collision course with Nelson, the man she’s never forgotten and one who still carries a torch for her. But Nelson is married. And, in this case, the course of true love is anything but smooth.
Frankly, the elaborate twists and turns of the plot are more than half the fun of this book and I really don’t want to spoil it all giving away too many details. But I will say that Susan Isaacs has an incredibly satirical eye and a real skill for depicting characters that simply jump off the page. I’m a city girl from a small town – I’ve never lived in the suburbs anywhere – but Susan Isaacs makes me feel as if I did. By the end of this book, I knew her characters – the former career women turned suburban moms searching for an outlet for their talents and energies, the aging mobster, Judith’s bored and somewhat jaded best friend, and, of course, the ruthless killer – all of them came amazingly to life. And on top of all that, the mystery itself is a really good one that I figured out only about a page or two before Isaacs finally solves the crime.
As women’s fiction does not involve the same genre constraints as romance novels, Judith and Nelson’s behavior cannot be judged by romance standards. Keep that in mind as you read Long time No See, a book with much to offer, particularly if you loved Compromising Positions. After all, both in life and in fiction, it’s always nice to visit old friends.
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