Reading THE GOLDEN COUPLE (St. Martin’s, 326 pp., $28.99) is like arriving at a crime scene in which the criminals have left some fake clues just to mess with your head. This latest book by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen teems with red flags that are sometimes red herrings; the trick is to figure out which is which. As Avery, an unorthodox marriage counselor, muses to herself in a session with Marissa and Matthew, the titular couple, “Every single person here is concealing something.”
That includes Avery, whose sketchy methods extend to spying on her clients and appearing unannounced at their offices, and who is apparently being harassed by shadowy representatives of a conglomerate whose corruption she exposed after a patient revealed it in a session. Meanwhile, the sharks circling Marissa and Matthew’s shaky marriage include Matthew’s hot ex-girlfriend, Natalie, and the couple’s old friend and Marissa’s new lover, Skip, who is possibly a psychopathic stalker.
Who is crazy and who is merely flaky? Is there any connection to the terrible thing that happened when Marissa, Matthew and Skip were teenagers? What is Avery’s real game? The narration further disorients us by alternating between Marissa’s third-person and Avery’s first-person perspectives. Not everything tracked, but I am happy to say that the ending made total wacky sense — and was a complete surprise.
Alex Segura’s wittily original SECRET IDENTITY (Flatiron, 368 pp., $27.99) succeeds on so many levels: as a homage to classic noir, a love letter to New York in the seamy 1970s and an immersive tutorial in comic-book publishing of that era. It features Carmen, secretary to the head of a barely afloat comic-book publisher, who longs to write her own comics. Unfortunately, her boss is a chauvinist dingbat.
But luck (sort of) smiles on her when she teams up with a co-worker and helps produce an electrifying new series featuring a brooding heroine named the Lynx. (Bonus: Some of its pages are included in the book.) But then the co-worker is murdered. And no one knows Carmen wrote most of the story — her name isn’t mentioned as an author.
Trying to dodge her volatile, on-and-off married girlfriend, find her professional footing and solve her colleague’s murder while keeping ahead of the police proves challenging. But there are compensations, like a wild night at CBGB’s featuring an electrifying new band, Talking Heads.