SAVAGE LANE BY JASON STARR
The residents of Savage Lane live the suburban American Dream: beautiful homes, fancy cars, and regular tee times at the local country club. But while they smile pretty at each other at cocktail parties and wave while getting their mail from the mailbox at the end of the driveway, long buried passions are simmering just below the surface.
Playing with traditional soap opera tropes in SAVAGE LANE, Jason Starr lays out an interlocking narrative of infidelity, attempted infidelity, sexually transmitted disease, and murder that would make anyone competing for a Daytime Emmy award jealous. Thankfully, this story is in Starr’s hands. He skillfully lets the satirical nature of the story shine through, while at the same time ratcheting up the suspense to almost unbearable levels.
While the who’s-hooking-up-with-who and who’d-rather-be-hooking-up-with-who can make your head spin, the real focus on the book is the power of delusion. Starr gives us a snapshot of an idyllic American neighborhood. No one wants for anything, and everyone has everything they need, but no one has what they want. Deb Berman is so mind-numbingly bored with her Donna Reed type existence, that she turns to the arms of the conniving Owen Harrison, even though he’s more than half her age. Mark Berman is so obsessed with his beautiful best-friend Karen Daily, that he builds a massive fantasy life with the two of them, at the shocking expense of losing the family that he already has. The cycle of self-induced mind games is so horrifying in its complete and total domination of those involved, that I laughed out loud many times at the ridiculous length that the players would go to achieve their goals.
But this isn’t a comedy. The delusions that these people live with start to have real consequences, as a Deb disappears and people start to think that a murderer may be stalking the manicured streets of Savage Lane. Starr’s skills at mapping out the madness are amazing. Again, with plot twists that could have come out of any daytime soap, this easily could have devolved into a farce, or even a dime store romance novel, but Starr lets the reader figure out who is the real hero of the story. Who really is the one without sin? Who is living without delusion, and who is actually comfortable with who they are and the reality of their lives?
A fantastic thriller that makes the reader face hard questions of fantasy versus reality, SAVAGE LANE is one of the best books I’ve read all year.