Must Read Well

As the seductive psychological suspense novel Must Read Well opens, narrator Liz Miller is going through a rough patch: after four years as a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia, her dissertation is at a standstill, and a recent breakup means she needs a new apartment. So she's elated when she spots a Craigslist ad seeking a "quiet female willing to read aloud to purblind landlady one hour a day" in exchange for a cheap room in a Greenwich Village building. It's not just the prospect of the room that delights Liz. From the e-mail address provided, she knows exactly who placed the ad: Anne Taussig Weil.

Anne, who wrote a 1965 bestseller, happens to be one of the three subjects of Liz's dissertation about popular female novelists. But Anne is the only writer who refused to speak with Liz. Without disclosing her previous effort to get in touch, Liz answers the ad and is offered the room. After Liz moves in, Anne wants to revisit a decades-old "episode" recorded in her journals, which she keeps locked in a drawer. As the reading sessions proceed, Liz becomes convinced that the journal content would dazzle her review committee. If only Anne hadn't made Liz sign a nondisclosure agreement requiring her to keep the journals' contents under wraps.

Ellen Pall (Among the GinzburgsBack East) produces a tantalizing premise with a slow-drip execution, the chief pleasure of which is the suspense generated by the question of how far the increasingly duplicitous Liz will go to get what she wants from Anne, who, it bears mentioning, isn't the naïf she once was. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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