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In this slow-burning, intricate thriller from Edgar-winner Cook (The Crime of Julian Wells), Sam Madison and his wife, Sandrine, both professors at Georgia's Coburn College (he of literature, she of history) and parents of a grown daughter, appear to have a solid marriage. But below the surface there are problems, which culminate in Sandrine's death from a cocktail of Demerol and vodka. While the coroner rules the death a suicide, the police suspect foul play and soon zero in on Sam as his wife's killer. The local prosecutor is so certain of Sam's guilt that he seeks the death penalty. In the course of the murder trial, which runs from unexpected revelations on the witness stand to torrents of legalese as the attorneys jockey for power, Sam reflects on his relationship with the brilliant, beautiful, and vexing Sandrine. Through Sam's memories, Cook pulls off the tricky task of rendering Sandrine-a lover of ancient history, particularly Cleopatra, and the intricacies of language-as vividly as if she had never died. This crime novel, one of his best, builds to an unforeseen, but earned, climax. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Master plotter Cook upends the traditional linear progress of the typical mystery from crime through solution (and sometimes) trial by starting this head-scratcher at the trial itself, with the opening argument of the prosecution. We sit with college professor Samuel Madison, on trial for murdering his wife, Sandrine, also a college professor, as he thinks about what has happened to him over the past week: for example, how the first responding officer on the scene seemed much more interested in what had happened than Samuel had expected; how the people in his tiny college town all seemed to have turned against him, assuming that such a socially graceless, homely man as he certainly would have killed his beautiful, faithless wife; and how excessively well prepared the prosecution seems to be. Part of the thrill of reading this unusual mystery is that we're confined to Samuel's head, and he's not saying if he did indeed murder his wife. Another fine effort from the always insightful Cook.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2010 Booklist