Sara Peretsky steps out of the mystery genre with an allegorical novel that tackles issues of money, sex, gender, power, religion, and insanity. It's an admirable effort that she doesn't quite pull off. The book brings together a diverse group of characters: a group of homeless women, an alcoholic diva, the well-heeled household of a famous neurosurgeon, an overwhelmed psychiatric resident, and a mysterious "goddess" figure. The characters never quite engage us, never get that spark of life that pulls us in for the ride. In particular, we never seem to get a good, head-on look at the pivotal character of the book, the messianic Starr. All of the characters keep telling us how compelling she is; once she shows up, halfway through the book, everybody in the book seems obsessed by her. But we have to take their word for it: she's vague, almost a background character, and there's nothing about her as she's written that reaches out and takes hold of us. This book is both commentary and satire, but it lacks the outrageousness and pure humor necessary to put across its point. I can see what Peretsky was trying to do, and at some points she gets close to hitting her target, but in general it's not a tight enough effort.