Back on Track

The new novel by Ayelet Waldman, Bye-Bye, Black Sheep, has nothing on her last book, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. Then again, it's not supposed to. Black Sheep is a mystery, and it attends faithfully to the habits of the genre, meaning plot trumps character development and shimmering language and so forth — it's a book to be read in a hammock (which is hardly a knock, as I love hammocks). It's also the seventh “Mommy-Track Mystery” Waldman has published since 2000, and you don't mess with that kind of success. Black Sheep stars Juliet Applebaum, a private investigator, mother, and wife of a writer that you can't help but compare to the author's husband, Michael Chabon. “Maybe I'll take her to the comic book store,” he says at one point. “I want to pick up the new issue of The Escapist.” Chabon, of course, created that superhero in 2001.

The plot features Applebaum working a case with her partner, ex-cop Al Hockey, in which a transvestite seeks justice for her murdered sister. It's an entertaining ride, punctuated by Applebaum's rants against the inequalities of the justice system and the trials of motherhood, subjects well known to Waldman, a former public defender and the author of a few notorious essays about child-rearing (she once wrote “I want a gay son” in a article, and she wasn't kidding).
Wed., Sept. 6, 7 p.m.

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