Downtown artsy types, living in an insular world of esoteric discussions and inaccessible work, are a New York City cliche. But Hustvedt's likable quartet -- a painter and his model-wife and a couple of academics -- are more than self-congratulatory poseurs. Their intertwined creative and romantic lives offer a seductive, refreshingly adult view of partnerships of the mind and body. What endangers their snug existence at the intersection of intellectualism and loft living isn't infidelity or professional jealousy, but a club-kid murder straight out of a Law & Order episode. It's a surprising turn of events that wrests the characters from what could have been a perfectly fine novel of manners, putting them through unexpected psychological paces that lead to a bittersweet, if somewhat bewildering, resolution.