Cookís latest atmospheric tale is framed around the frustrations and aspirations of Lucas Page, a middle-aged historian who has just arrived in St. Louis to hawk his new book,
Fatal Choices. A deeply disconsolate man, Lucas feels as though heís never been able to write the deeply sentient books it was his dream to create. At the core of Lucasís problems is a bitter past that
has been simmering under the surface for many years.
When his teenage nemesis, Lola Faye Gilroy, suddenly appears at his book signing, Lucas
senses again this blooming seed of bitterness. Dark rings around her once-inky blue eyes and wrinkles on her lips, Lolaís unflinching gaze gives Lucas a heightened physical unease; no one but Lola can stop Lucasís heart and chill his soul.
From this point, Cook assembles his drama as though on an epic and tragic ďredneck Shakespearean stage.Ē Lola Faye is the facilitator for all of Lucasís anxious memories: his father lying in a pool of blood; Lola Fayeís husband in another; Lucasís mother splayed out lifeless on her bed; and the ostensibly innocent machinations of Lola Faye herself, buxom and blond, for whom Lucasís father had evidently been willing to cast aside his son and his wife.
Peering into the hidden, fractured depths of Lucasís tumultuous past, Cook creates a crystallized nightmare. Using fragments of conversation, the author builds a hotbed of dark noir, violence and scandal as the longings of an idealistic and ambitious young Lucas are gradually exposed. Lucas aches to escape the all-consuming drabness of Glenville, Alabama, his ramshackle hometown, and to finally bury the memories of his father's sordid fling with an ignorant shop girl in a makeshift bedroom with a plywood roof and cardboard for a bed.
Thereís a moment of unreality as Lola Fayeís words tighten around Lucas like a noose, this
former object "of his fatherís grimy desire." The tension is almost palpable as they sit drinking
pinot noir, Lola later diffidently sampling an appletini, laughing and shaking her head playfully, making a joke at Lukeís expense and ďaching to talk about old times.Ē
This iconic meeting with Lola Faye challenges Lucasís most basic assumptions about her infidelity, along with the narrow, myopic nature of his fatherís existence and his startling lack of worldliness, where the only hope for Lucas was inheriting the
shabby family-owned five-and-dime.
In his trademark effortless prose, Cook captures the essence of Lucasís yearnings, his love for his ailing mother and his desire to ď go northĒ and get an education at a storied university where he can write his grand works of history. Ironically, Lolaís clever mockery and sly asides cloud Lucasís grim and false suspicions. Along with a surprise twist, Lola Faye ends up shattering Lucas's deep-seated perceptions of his past that for years have seemed so out of his control.