Susan Melville grew up the privileged, wealthy daughter of New York blue-bloods, assured of her comfortable place in Society. But it's the 1980s, and the city has changed since Wharton's era. The Melville money is gone and Susan's rent-controlled apartment is being sold out from under her to form condos. In despair, she sneaks into a party with the object of committing suicide. But as she pulls her father's gun from her purse, she questions why she should die and the unscrupulous businessman who bought her building should live. Filled with righteous indignation, she shoots him.
To her surprise, she is hustled out of the room by a young man before anyone even realizes a murder has occurred. He badgers her to tell him who hired her; she is amazed to discover that he is an assassin, and he assumes she is as well. And thus begins Miss Melville's career as a hired killer. No one notices a middle-aged woman in slightly shabby clothes, and years of recreational shooting have given her fantastic aim. Her self-assurred poise and wealthy connections give her just the edge she needs. And to her pleasure, her experiences as an assassin make the many little indignities and annoyances of her former life laughably managable.
But then she starts to wonder if perhaps, she has gotten just a little trigger happy. And besides, she wants to be an artist, not a killer...
Miss Melville is sensible, pragmatic, and extremely snobby in a ladylike sort of way. Her supporting characters are uniquely dotty (if not particularly believable). And 1908s New York is presented with flair and not a little bit of artistic license. A fast, fun read.