The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover March 2016

Buy it at Mystery Lovers Bookshop

I've been a fan of Lisa Lutz ever since the publication of her first Spellman Family novel, The Spellman Files, back in 2008. Her tales of the dysfunctional family of San Francisco PI's were funny and fast-paced and told with an ironic voice. That voice does not disappear in The Passenger but it is otherwise quite a departure for Lutz; moving from light and comic and dark and suspenseful. A move which she accomplishes in fine style.

We open up with Tanya Dubois contemplating the body of her husband, neck broken, lying at the bottom of the stairs at their home. She didn't do it, she tells us but we're not sure we can believe her since her name isn't really Tanya Dubois. She's a woman with a past and her identity won't hold up to police scrutiny so--whether innocent or guilty--she's got to take off and find a new identity. As the novel progresses Tanya will assume several different identities and the character's (and Lutz's) meditation on the meaning of identity, how we decide who we'll be and even the question of what does this identity order in a bar are all considered carefully. At the same time we've got several murders, pursuit by various bad guys and a wonderful character named Blue who is either a devil or an angel--we're still not sure on the last page.

All in all, a delightful and welcome departure for Lutz who shows her depth in her willingness to move into uncharted territory with her writing.