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Lux: A Novel    by Maria Flook order for
by Maria Flook
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lux is a stylized literary mystery riddled with farce, set in Cape Cod. Two unusually flawed people come together in the novel, despite a dark secret that lurks in the background. Alden is a needy young woman, a bit of a flake, raised in exploiting foster homes. She 'sometimes looked unraveled, a little akimbo, like a sticky door that needs planing'. Her husband Monty, a schoolteacher obsessed with butterflies, disappeared two years before. The police, who nickname Alden 'Miss Bride Interrupted', believe that he 'ran off with a skirt', but Alden wonders about Monty's precious 'butterfly diorama' found by the roadside.

The reader is let in on what happened to Monty early in the novel, but Alden remains in the dark. She fills her time with her job at the National Seashore Visitor Center. She moonlights collecting seagulls poisoned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (a population control measure), and acts as a volunteer delivering meals to the homebound. She has a special relationship with elderly Hyram, a noted conservationist; they help each other. And Alden desperately seeks to adopt a baby. Lux Davis is a gifted landscape artist, who has had a 'neuropathological affliction since childhood' that causes an effect like a 'frozen spell' to descend upon him every once in a while. He's also a stalker who watches Alden through the windows of her tiny Victorian dune shack. Gradually he moves into her life. Lux helps her get a smelly revenge on a social worker and on her married ex-lover, and is pulled into other ill-considered schemes.

As background to this odd romance, a corpse is about to be unearthed and has to be moved and reburied by an oblivious trio of comic criminals who're continually interrupted by the police - at one point the skeleton really is in the closet. The author has fun turning gravedigging into a literary theme. And there are amusing sequences with a 'Friolator confession in an AA group', and a butterfly protest that paintballs a celebrity bride. Lux is a novel that verges on comedy, verges on horror, verges on romance, but isn't quite any of the above. I'm not sure I really liked it, but it certainly kept me reading.

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