This is my first Thomas Cook book but I have a feeling it may not be my last. Also, I’m a sucker for legal crime books so this is also right up a favorite dark alley. And Holsopple does an excellent job.
Samuel Madison tells us, in 1st person, about the death of his wife whom the police consider to have been murder by him. The story is told primarily from the courtroom as his case is being tried.
It seems that Sandrine, a beautiful, intelligent, professor at a local community college, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and is facing a long and very painful death. Her body was found by her husband, Sam, also a professor at the college, who calls 911. He then calls their grown daughter, Alexandra, who tells him not to touch anything.
But the police are almost immediately suspicious and start an investigation. All of this and much more is slowly revealed by Sam’s recollections as the witnesses are called to the stand in the frame story. More is revealed by his interactions with Alexandra at home. Did Sam poison Sandrine or not? Like a good author Cook keeps the reader guessing.
This isn’t a “thriller” in the usual sense of the term – there are no scenes of gore, no chases. The narrator is NOT reliable as we never know how much of the truth he’s telling us. In fact, it’s his “unreliability” which is the point of the book, the foundation of the suspense – the “did-he-do-it?” His defense is totally ambiguous – there seem to be understandable reasons for each suspicious move or statement. Even his thoughts are questionable – very questionable.
I’ve “branded” this “literary legal crime” because both the victim and 1st person have PhDs, the setting has a college atmosphere in addition to the courtroom, and there are numerous literary allusions. The relationships between the characters are finely nuanced and deliver many an interesting insight.