For Nat and his new friends, Grace and Izzie Zorn, twin sisters as seductive as they are elusive, it was the perfect plan for some quick cash. A bold scheme with an admirable motive: to save the bright future of a deserving young man. And the victim, too, was deserving--an arrogant billionaire who would hardly notice a financial loss. All the plotters needed was a believable story, desperate and frightening, but false. Nothing bad was supposed to happen. They were only crying wolf. But what if the wolf were real For someone in the shadows is listening, someone who thinks he deserves an even brighter future. Now a risky but basically innocent game will take a horrifying turn. . . .
A Boston woman's ill-advised affair with a talk-show host leads to murder and mayhem in this initially absorbing but somewhat contrived thriller from the author of The Fan and Lights Out. Art critic Francie Cullingwood is the beautiful, sophisticated and dissatisfied protagonist who seeks sexual satisfaction outside her stale marriage. Her lover is Ned DeMarco, a handsome, touchy-feely psychiatrist who hosts a radio show for the emotionally forlorn. Their passionate arrangement begins to unravel when Roger, Francie's brilliant but angry husband (a Harvard summa who's been fired from his job as a securities analyst), suspects her adultery and hires a hit man, Whitey Truax, to exact revenge on his spouse. Truax, it turns out, is a serial killer with a very short fuse. The tension rises as Abrahams cuts between the plot participants: Ned's wife, Anne, becomes Francie's tennis partner, making Francie aware of the damage the affair is causing, while Ned desperately clings to their involvement and Roger plots his bizarre campaign of retribution. The initial showdown between Whitey and his potential victims takes place at the adulterous couple's love nest, a New Hampshire cottage that quickly becomes a house of horrors when Whitey suspects Roger of double-crossing him, and runs amok on a killing spree that eventually leads back to Boston. Abrahams does his best work in a series of well-crafted early scenes that effectively convey the different levels of emotional duplicity among the protagonists, but the actual murders are strictly formulaic. While Francie, Ned and Anne are well-drawn, Abrahams's portrayals of both Roger and his minion lack dimension; they are both plot devices whose ludicrous partnership never carries the ring of credibility. Even so, as he explores Francie's emotional terrain in the wake of tragedy, Abrahams will keep readers very much engaged. Agent, Molly Friedrich; 100,000 first printing. (Oct.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 11, 1999
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Excerpt from A Perfect Crime by Peter Abrahams
Thursday, the best day of the week-- the day of all days that Francie was predisposed to say yes. But here in the artist's studio, with its view of the Dorchester gas tank superimposed on the harbor beyond, she couldn't bring herself to do it. The problem was she hated the paintings. The medium was ink, the tool airbrush, the style photorealist, the subject slack-faced people in art galleries viewing installations; the installations, when she looked more closely, were neon messages fenced in with blood-tipped barbed wire, messages that though tiny could be read, when she looked more closely still. Francie, her nose almost touching the canvases, read them dutifully: name that tune; do you swear to tell the truth ; we will have these moments to remember.
"World within world," she said, a neutral phrase that might be taken optimistically.
"I'm sorry " said the artist, following her nervously around the studio.
Francie smiled at him-- gaunt, hollow-eyed, twitchy, unkempt-- Raskolnikov on amphetamines. She'd seen paintings of slack-faced people looking at paintings; she'd seen neon messages; she'd seen barbed wire, blood-tipped, pink, red-white-and-blue; seen art feeding on itself with an appetite that grew sharper every day.
"Anything else you'd like to show me " she said.
"Anything else " said the artist. "I'm not sure exactly what you ..."
Francie kept her smile in place; artists lived uneasy lives. "Other work," she explained, as gently as she could.
But not gently enough. He flung out his arm in a dramatic sweep. "This is my work."
Francie nodded. Some of her colleagues would now say "I love it" and let him learn the bad news in a letter from the foundation, but Francie couldn't. Silence followed, long and uncomfortable. Time slowed down, much too soon. On Thursdays, Francie wanted time to behave as it might in some Einsteinian thought experiment, hurrying by until dark, then almost coming to a stop. The artist gazed at his shoes, red canvas basketball sneakers, paint-spattered. Francie gazed at them, too. Do you swear to tell the truth Even bad art could get to you, or at least to her. She saw something from the corner of her eye-- a small unframed canvas, leaning against the jamb of a doorless closet, went closer, to end the shoe-gazing if nothing else.
"What's this " An oil painting of a plinth, cracked, crumbling, classical, bearing a bunch of grapes, wine-dark, overripe, even rotting. And in the middle ground, not hidden, not flaunted, simply there, was a lovely figure of a girl on a skateboard, all poise, balance, speed.
"That " said the painter. "That's from years ago."
"Tell me about it."