Marketed as a crime novel but it’s really about the lives of various suburbanites. There is a monstrous crime commited but it’s more in the background. No police procedural or investigation of any kind is mentioned. Jackson is the author of 1945’s “The Lost Weekend.”
Sixteen year old Aaron Adams steals a new Chrysler station wagon from in front of a rich couple’s home. He forces a car driven by Fan French to stop. She’s married to a husband who likes booze more than her. Her two obilgations in life are to make his breakfast and drive him to the train. Like other neighborhood women she’d love to have a go at radio newscaster Wayne Kendrick. Aaron asks her “How about it?” She drives off and doesn’t take it seriously.
Jim and Ruth Herron and their five year old daughter Mary are coming back from a vacation. Jim has a babe on the side and plays the family man. On the way Jim misjudges his distance and runs over a dog and keeps going. On a bridge he sees Aaron standing by the station wagon. He doesn’t see anything out of line and keeps going. Not too long after they get home Ruth takes Mary to stay wih her sister in Princeton.
Mrs. Adelaide Irish sees four neighborhood young girls walking to school. The two older sisters are ahead of the younger pair. A station wagon pulls up and picks up the younger girls. Mrs.Irish thinks that’s nice.
Now the girls are missing. Later Aaron is in jail and confesses to their brutal murder. When he was on the bridge he had just tossed the bodies into the water. That leads Jim to do something he thinks will make him noble. When the press talks with Mrs.Irish she gets upset at the article that mentions a strand of her grey hair as being out of place.
The book got a good reception when it first came out but has paled over the years. It’s not exactly a bulletin that some people are shallow even about horrendous crime.