Fast Forward

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Judy Mercer’s debut novel opens with a woman who wakes up with no idea of who she is, in a house that has been ransacked. She quickly discovers a blood-soaked shirt and a gun. From evidence in the house, she realizes that she is Ariel Gold, producer of a television investigative news show.

Ariel decides to keep her amnesia secret in the light of the fact that whoever ransacked her house may still be after her. She is forced to reveal her secret to a few others, including her veterinarian, Victor, and her boss, Henry, both of whom notice changes in her personality, but others remain unaware.

Ariel shoots and kills an intruder, but because there are no clues as to his motive for the break-in, she is not sure that he was the person who ransacked her house or that she is safe now that he is dead. The narrative reveals that someone is, in fact, still out to get her, but not that person’s identity.

As Ariel tries to find out more about her unremembered life, Henry takes her to the office to teach her how to do her job. She becomes involved in an investigation of a murder while assisting with the taping of a segment of her news show. In the meantime, she tries to obtain the papers for the dog living in her house. Victor, her veterinarian, says that she inherited the dog from a woman who died recently. When Ariel contacts Philip Carroll, the widower of the dog’s previous owner, he asks her questions indicating that they may have met earlier.

As the story unravels, Ariel becomes increasingly entwined in the murder investigation, unsure of whether she might have been in contact with some of the people involved. She also uncovers information about herself, helping her to build an identity in her still unfamiliar life. The setup of the novel, in which amnesiac Ariel cannot ask others for help in finding her identity, cleverly introduces an unusual heroine with a unique and fascinating problem. Readers will quickly come to sympathize with Ariel and cheer for her as she untangles her personal mysteries and those of the murder investigation.