Friday, February 13, 2009

Good, but not great

Thomas H. Cook's The Chatham School Affair is one of my favorite suspense novels. Cook is particularly strong at setting up situations that lead to tragedy and then exploring the long-term damage of the tragedies. Anyone who likes suspense novels should pick it up. After reading it, I knew I wanted more. Cook has written a pile of novels so I picked up Instruments of Night more or less at random. Given my book buying to book reading ratio, I am getting to the book about a year after buying it. While it is good, it is not at the same level of Chatham School Affair.

The book's main character is Paul Graves who writes a series of suspense novels featuring a vile killer who is constantly one step ahead of his pursuer. You can tell something is amiss with our Paul as he is given to imaging dark backstories with every person he sees. He is highly introverted and it comes as no surprise that his books might arise from a horrific event in his past.

We watch him slowly come to terms with this event, as he explores an even older tragedy at the behest of the owner of large country estate. It seems her best friend was murdered in 1946 and the case was never resolved. In order give solace to the victim's aging mother, Graves agrees to imagine what might have happened to the girl.

This twin mysteries, what destroyed Graves and who killed the girl, are developed throughout the book. While I quite liked how the story progressed, I didn't like the resolution of either story. One becomes fairly obvious early on and one felt insufficient somehow. The best part of the book is Graves himself. Although he is not an attractive person, he provides some insight into how writers, or some at least, do their work.

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