Alex Orlando is a foreigner in New York -- a California foreigner, housesitting for her Uncle Carmi while he vacations in Puerto Rico. She quickly becomes entwined with her attractive Swedish neighbor, Christian, but something isn't quite right about him. For instance: where does he get all that cash? Her oldest friends, Kyle, has turned into a stalked, and a much-anticipated visit from Jan, her European boyfriend, quickly turns into a nightmare.
Manhattan is a foreign landscape filled with suspects in Meg Castaldo's daring and irresistible first novel.
Castaldo's debut is full of hip young people hanging out in Manhattan bars and restaurants, caught up in all manner of intrigue like sex, drugs and murder. After a month in Europe, Alex Orlando, 28, is apartment-sitting for her uncle Carmi while he soaks up the sun in Puerto Rico. She immediately defies his instructions to avoid the perils of Manhattan, and particularly the "very forward sort of a man" who lives next door that would be Christian, a Swedish architect, who immediately sets about charming his new neighbor. Alex is not lacking for acquaintances in the city. Her oldest friend, angst-ridden drug addict Kyle, is in New York, too, and at Barney's, where Alex gets a job, she meets Malcolm, a neurotic playwright who asks her to read his masterpiece. Then Jan, her on-again/off-again Belgian boyfriend, arrives in town and Christian turns up dead shortly thereafter. Coincidences start to mount: everyone she knows seems to have had some connection to Christian. Is the villain the obnoxious Kyle? What about his prickly girlfriend, Yassi? Is it the uber-temperamental Malcolm, whose play has mysteriously disappeared while on loan to Alex? Or is it Jan, who has dealings with a mysterious businessman whom Christian also knew? And just what was Uncle Carmi's relationship with the dead Swede? Castaldo's matter-of-fact style is mercifully free of Gen-X irony unfortunately, observations like "I'd always had a thing for foreign men; they weren't from here," display a woeful lack of edge and insight. The sucker punch ending is not especially original, either, but Castaldo sustains a brisk pace along the way, and younger adult readers will be entertained.