The Last Good Day
Peter Blauner
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The Last Good Day

Peter Blauner
Little Brown
432 pages
June 2003
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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When the Schulman's move back to Riverside, New York, they expect to be freed from the pressures and danger of big city life. Barry commutes and Lynn is reviving a stalled photography career, even has her own studio at the new house. There is a general feeling of anxiety after the attacks of September 11, but Lynn senses something more sinister, although she is unable to put a name to it. When one of her closest friends is brutally murdered, a shocked Lynn sees danger everywhere, and realizes that security is often only a state of mind.

Lynn has ties to Riverside from childhood and many old friends live nearby. Her history with an old boyfriend, now a police lieutenant assigned to the gruesome murder investigation, lingers in the air like toxic fumes. Only vaguely aware and preoccupied with an upcoming photography exhibit, Lynn is slow to acknowledge Mike Fallon's unwanted attentions. She downplays her concerns to her husband, Barry, who is distracted by a work crisis of his own.

It is Mike Fallon's emotional instability that escalates the action, forcing old friends into unexpected confrontations and ruffling the smooth surface of contemporary suburban bliss. Like a fast-moving funnel cloud, Blauner exposes the insides of apparently placid upscale homes, exposing the distortions so well-hidden from the outside world. Each family has its own complexities and more than one marriage is strained to the breaking point, with their small children becoming the usual casualties.

For Lynn and Barry Schulman, it is time to pull together or be pulled apart. With the sudden dissolution of everything they've taken for granted, the Schulman's are on their own, unable to count on police protection. In a riveting, chaotic climax, some are left standing -- but not all. Lynn looks back over her once serene hometown, thinking, "The dead; the one neighborhood that would take you in no matter what you'd done". But life goes on, and the survivor's task is to make sense of what remains of once enviable lives.

Peter Blauner sustains the suspense to the end of The Last Good Day, with occasionally brilliant observations of life so recently overloaded with loss. The emotional pitch intensifies as various characters scatter with no more direction than random balls on a pool table after the first break.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book.

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