Based on an experience she had as a young girl, Karen Shepardís Donít I Know You? is an obliquely told whodunit that unfolds in three intertwining narratives. The book opens up in 1976 in New York Cityís Upper West Side. Seven-year-old Steven Engels comes home to find his mother, Gina, dead on the floor. The stunned boy hides in a closet, where he is found by his motherís boyfriend, Phil. The Police and Medical Examiner show up at the scene, and Steven is whisked away by Detective McGuire - and interrogated, leaving the impression that Phil was the number one suspect and continuing to be a person of interest over the next year.
The story then shifts as a strange woman visits Lily Chin to warn her about her lover, Nikolai Belov. The connection? The woman was a former lover of Nikolai, and his secret life might involve Gina. Lily confronts Nikolai about his involvement, leaving Lily in a precarious position. A decade passes, and the case is still unsolved. But the perspective shifts once more.
Ten years later, Louise Carpanetti, the upstairs neighbor of Gina, is questioned by Benjamin Engelís (Stevenís father) lawyer. Louise is dying of cancer, and she wonders if her emotionally challenged son committed the murder. One her deathbed, just a few days before the case is to go to court, Louise questions Michael in hopes of gleaning the truth from his answers. But is she satisfied with that?
Therein lies the magic of this story. Donít I Know You? is very much like Robert Altmannís Short Cuts or, more recently, the phenomenally successful Crash, where different perspectives of different people in different time frames all meld together to tell a moving story. Part mystery, part fascinating character study, Donít I Know You? is a quick summer read.