Glow in the Dark

Leo Tolstoy once famously wrote: “All great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” The writer John Gardner refined that notion with this line in his book The Art of Fiction: “As subject, use either a trip or the arrival of a stranger (some disruption of order…).”

Which is how Glow in the Dark begins, with the arrival of a disruption to Alexander Strange’s routine.

Here are the first few lines of the book:

The leggy blonde strode through the newsroom like she owned the place and stepped into my office. As she leaned over my desk, her hair fell forward and she swept it away, revealing sparkling diamond earrings that matched the rocks around her neck. She wore a low-cut black cocktail dress, tight fitting, that showed off her lissome figure. But it was her eyes that drew my attention. They were cobalt and rimmed in red, as if she would begin crying at any moment.

“Geez, Mom, you all right?”

Her brow furrowed. “I thought we agreed not to call me that. I’m not that much older than you, Alexander.”

She had me by at least fifteen years, but no question she looked younger than her age.

“Well, you are my stepmother.”

Her name was Sarah and she was newly wed to my Uncle Leo—Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Leonardo D. Strano to you. Leo adopted me after my mother—his sister—drowned in a cave during a sit-in to save an endangered species of spider.

So, any of Leo’s succession of wives qualified as a stepmother. Sarah was the latest, Numero Cinco.

“Please, Alex,” Sarah said, her voice strained. “There’s a problem and Leonard said you’d help.”