Ann Lineberger‘s new book tells the story of how a publishing mogul’s murder leads to revelations about suburban sex clubs and a religious cult.
But the Wilton resident said the novel really focuses on “the selling of hope in contemporary America” through perceived saviors such as alternative churches, gurus, medications, clairvoyance and even yoga. She spoke about the book last week at Norwalk Library.
“People feel unsettled now and are vulnerable to a lot,” said Lineberger, 49, a former journalist and public relations specialist.
The book, Sunday Best, is set in the fictional Connecticut town of Longshore and is being promoted as a comic mystery. It delves into suburban angst and how affluent people search for ways to solve mid-life crises.
After the publishing mogul’s death, his brother asks a group of employees at the family’s publishing company to find who is responsible. While infiltrating swingers’ groups the dead man patronized to try to locate the killer, they uncover a connection between the perverse subculture and an alternative church.
“As they dig deeper, they discover the lengths that people will go to indulge their their fantasies while preserving their secrets,” according to the book’s publicity material.
Lineberger said the book’s storyline came partly from rumors she’d heard about a local swingers club after she moved back to Fairfield County as an adult. “The idea seemed odd to me,” she said. “People are involved on a consensual basis, but then they have to see each other around town, like at the hardware store. I thought it would be fun to poke fun at this idea.”
This is Lineberger’s third book, coming two years after publication of “The Adjustments,” which focused on a sexy male yoga instructor’s impact on suburban women in another fictional Connecticut community.
“Both books are supposed to be funny and ridiculous,” she said. “I’m poking fun at everything. It’s sex, but presented in a funny way. It’s such a part of who we are, of being human. But we see so much today in media and online that it takes all the romance and fun out of it.”
She stressed Sunday Best also has a romantic angle, with two people falling in love unrelated to a sex club.
Some may be surprised at the subjects Lineberger writes about based on her appearance and demeanor. “When people meet me, they don’t assume I’d be writing about these subjects, but there hasn’t been any backlash,” said Lineberger, who is married with two children.
Readers like her insights into Fairfield County suburbs’ underbelly, based on Amazon reviews of Sunday Best.
“It’s obvious Lineberger knows the territory and its proclivity to obscure the unseemly under perfectly manicured exteriors,” wrote one reviewer.
“Those preppy people from the Nutmeg State are not as innocent as they look,” wrote another.
The novel delves into the tier of sex clubs available for willing participants, depending on their status in life. A blue-collar club is intended for those in excellent physical shape, a white-collar club is more for the hip and cool and a high-end upscale club is for the very rich.
Most of Lineberger’s research on sex clubs was done through online sources. “I’m not in one,” she noted.
She said it’s remarkable what can be found on the web, including YouTube videos of people speaking in detail about their involvement in swingers’ groups.
Some aspects of the book are based on her life. Her mother joined an alternative church that Lineberger attended as a child, but it wasn’t that extreme, she said.
Her two most recent books have caused her mom to wonder about her daughter a bit, Lineberger said. She was sure to encourage her mom to read Sunday Best before attending a gathering with friends organized to promote the book.
The book is self-published and available on Amazon. She’s also been selling copies through social media, attending literary events and speaking at libraries and other venues. She recently spoke at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford on how to write about family and friends without alienating them.
Lineberger has worked a reporter, editor and writer for Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, Cottages & Gardens and Home Remodeling. She’s been an interior designer and is a real estate agent.
She was born in Alabama but raised in Stamford, graduating from Stamford Catholic High School in 1986 when she was Ann Sample.
Lineberger worked in public relations in Washington, D.C., before entering journalism and relocating to New York City. She said moving back to the suburbs later, while in her mid-30s, gave her a new perspective and she began writing fiction.
Her first book, “New Spaces., Old World Charm,” was about interior design and published by McGraw-Hill in 2004.
Her next book should be a comic cozy mystery that won’t have much sex or violence, she said.