Picks and Pans Review: Bad Chemistry

UPDATED 02/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

by Gary Krist

Warning to dog lovers: This mystery novel begins with former Chicago cop Kate Theodorus Baker witnessing a Labrador retriever burst into flames at her own canine's birthday party. But when her husband, Joel, a rich, ex-hippie entrepreneur, disappears from their posh suburban D.C. home while running an errand, Kate and Joel's quiet existence suddenly ignites as well.

After police unearth a headless torso, a stash of designer hallucinogens and a worldwide web of online intrigue, Kate decides that she must solve the case herself if she wants to preserve her loving marriage and her hard-won luxurious life. Eventually, her findings call both wishes into question, as well as her rejection of her own working-class Greek roots.

What follows is a swift but ultimately unsatisfying denouement, complete with senseless gunplay and bad guys from central casting. Fortunately, Gary Krist, the author of two acclaimed short-story collections (Bone by Bone, The Garden State), weaves a strand of hip, trenchant social commentary—and thus a cleverly entertaining element—into what is essentially a tried-and-true formula. (Random House, $24)

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