There are two men in this story (Alex and Bruce) and three women (Claire, Donna and Elle). Claire is a waitress at the sort of posh Atlanta restaurant I never go to. She is thirty, petite, lovely, extremely professional and never gives in to the many attempts by her loyal clients to find out anything at all about her personal life. Alex is one of these clients: he’s a Silver Fox type who usually dates women Claire’s age but who shows up at the restaurant with Elle this particular night. Elle is older and classier than Alex’s usual type: she quizzes Alex about Claire and Alex is forced to reveal that he really doesn’t know that much about her. Claire recommends a new wine to Alex, who chooses it.
Halfway through dinner, a very sheepish Claire asks a tiny favor: her childhood friend Donna and Donna’s new husband Bruce have come to the restaurant, and Donna has revealed that she’s a few months pregnant. Could Claire possibly ask Alex for two drams of wine? Alex, being the expansive sort he is, insists on buying Bruce and Claire a whole bottle and inviting them to his and Elle’s table for dessert. Donna is Claire’s age but harder-rode and much more femmy; Bruce is close to Alex’s age and notably unattractive, though well-heeled. Alex likes people and he and Bruce have some random thing in common: hockey fans or whatever. Alex also clearly finds Donna attractive. Elle is bemused by all this; Claire is extremely discomfited, especially when Donna alludes to the fact that she knew Claire way back when. This scene is told from Elle’s POV.
A week later, Alex is back, this time without Elle. Claire is back to perfect pixie mode, but in the meantime, the other four have gone out again. Alex has found out something else about Claire, who grew up with Donna in some backwoods hellhole. Claire is so upset that her nostrils involuntarily flare; Alex realizes he’s gone too far and backpedals, but now Claire is pure robot. He leaves her a huge tip. This scene is told from Claire’s POV.
Ten days or so after this, Diana and Mustapha come to Alex’s office and show him a picture of Donna, who has been beaten to death with a cane or similar object. They know he talked to Donna two nights before, for quite a while. Alex says that he doesn’t like to kiss and tell, but Donna was trying to get him to start an affair with her, and that he was tempted enough to make out with her before, but this call was him explaining that he just didn’t feel comfortable with someone else’s wife. He’s horrified about the murder but being the smart guy that he is, he figures they must have excluded Bruce as the suspect if they’re talking to him. This scene is told from Diana’s POV.
Now an interview with Bruce, who is distraught. He is in Donna’s bedroom in their shared house. It is notably a pigsty: Donna is one of those people who leaves a trail of chaos behind her. They confront him with the fact that her death nets him a million dollars. He asks why he would want to kill his child? Mustapha’s POV.
Next D/M talk to Claire in her flat, which is perfectly neat and harmonious, a little glass booth in the sky. Claire is unfailingly polite and doesn’t try to flirt. She says that yes, they were old friends and had recently got back in touch, and Bruce had grown on her a little, and she was very excited about her friend’s pregnancy. Who would kill a pregnant woman? They ask her for an alibi. Claire does horse dressage at the poshest club around: this is where all the considerable money she makes goes. She was there for most of the critical period. This scene is told from Mustapha’s POV.
Now Elle, who says she knows Donna wasn’t actually pregnant. Donna forgot to flush and there was a tampon in the bowl. She was a little jealous of Donna, because Alex clearly fancied her, but she told Alex that Donna wasn’t pregnant and smart Alex got suspicious and dumped Donna. Diana’s POV.
Now an old posh Southern lady at the horse club. Of course Claire was there that night, though she seemed unusually frazzled. All the ladies love Claire: she’s so classy! Oh, goodness: the dead woman was here just the other day, came to see Claire, who wasn’t there yet, then when Claire did show up, and Donna was about to sit down to tea with some of the ladies, and Claire got visibly upset and dragged Donna out. All this was about twelve hours before Donna died. More of a third person omniscient POV.
Now Claire, one more time. D/M try to rattle her, but she’s a perfect pixie–until they bring up that Alex, upon being threatened about having lied by omission to the police, admitted that he told her Donna wasn’t really pregnant. She claims to have told Bruce, but they know Bruce didn’t know: he wasn’t a good enough actor. But even this doesn’t rattle her much, nor does the recap of what the cops know. Claire remains calm, perhaps hinting that what might have happened might have been self-defense.