The evolution of the mystery story has been driven by the development of the story's central character, especially since the influx of talented female writers into the genre. While the cerebral Victorian sleuth never missed a clue, many modern detectives show more complexity and even human frailty. They sometimes don't say or do what a classic detective hero might, but as such they're more fully realized characters. Novelist and screenwriter Delia Ephron's heroine Lily Davis is no exception. Divorced and caring for a son deep in the throes of adolescence, Lily decides to move from New York City to a small town on Long Island. There she meets and immediately offends a handsome police officer. Ephron follows Lily as she recovers from this awkward introduction, realizes her attraction to the married officer, and investigates several small mysteries that tantalize the town's gossip mill. Big City Eyes wears loosely the mantle of mystery. Although Lily glimpses the victim early on, the actual corpse doesn't turn up until the novel's halfway point. Suspense and suspicion flourish, as small-town political strife, workplace tensions, and infidelity plague Lily and her friends. But Ephron focuses on her heroine's experiences as a former New Yorker transplanted to an unfamiliar environment, and lets the events of the mystery develop in the background. This approach gives Ephron the freedom to explore avenues of the story unrelated to the central mystery, including several subplots that tantalize the reader.
In the midst of exploring her feelings for the charming cop, Lily finds herself counseling her one close friend in town whose husband might be having an affair. She also discovers that her son might have deeper troubles than she suspected. These events distract Lily from the murder case and cause her to adopt deceitful ways of her own. She realizes she can't fully trust anyone not her friends, not her son, not even herself. By presenting a wider set of obstacles and a detective who needs to find out more than just who done it, Ephron's Big City Eyes lets the reader share a triumph wider than simply catching a killer. Gregory Harris is a writer and editor in Indianapolis.