Author Miles Van Meter is on a book tour to promote his sensational bestseller Sleeping Beauty, a true-crime account of a deeply personal subject: the attack by a serial killer that left his twin sister, Casey, in a coma. Tonight the audience waits to hear Miles discuss recent developments in his sister's case -- unaware that pieces of this complex puzzle of violence, unknown even to the author, are about to be revealed. Six years earlier, life was much simpler for everyone involved, especially seventeen-year-old Ashley Spencer, a popular high school soccer star. Then one night an intruder entered Ashley's home and murdered her father and her best friend. Traumatized and suffering from a crippling sense of survivor guilt, Ashley is ready to give up on both soccer and life until help comes from an unexpected source -- a scholarship to the Oregon Academy, an elite private school, is extended to her by school dean Casey Van Meter. The school quickly becomes a haven for both Ashley and her mother, Terri.
The criminal at the heart of bestseller Margolin's unsatisfying 10th thriller is particularly heinous. Late one night in Portland, Ore., he assaults teenager Ashley Spencer, rapes and kills Ashley's friend Tanya, a sleepover guest, and stabs Ashley's father to death. Ashley miraculously escapes, but her brush with terror is far from over. A few months later, just as she and her mother, Terri (out of town on the night of the attack), are beginning to re-engage with the world, the killer strikes again, murdering Terri and leaving another woman, Casey Van Meter, in a coma on the grounds of Ashley's new school, the exclusive Oregon Academy. Ashley doesn't witness the crime, but she sees Joshua Maxfield, the school's writer-in-residence, at the scene, clutching a bloody knife. Wondering why her quiet, loving family has been targeted by this madman, she goes into hiding in Europe, returning to Portland years later to bear witness when Maxfield is finally apprehended and tried. But is he guilty And what was the motive for this crime spree The search for answers generates a modicum of suspense, but the book never really commands much interest, thanks to clumsy plotting and even clumsier prose. Much of the story is revealed in flashbacks, framed by scenes from a reading in a Seattle bookstore given by Casey's twin brother, Miles Van Meter, who has written a bestselling true-crime book about the case and his comatose sister (and yes, it's as contrived as it sounds). Margolin (The Ties That Bind, etc.) has imagined a particularly lurid and sensational crime, but he fails to realize virtually any of its inherent dramatic potential. (Apr. 2) Forecast: The publisher is making a big promotional push, including a 14-city author tour, that should ensure placement on bestseller lists. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 01, 2005
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Excerpt from Sleeping Beauty by Phillip Margolin
The bellman Claire Rolvag was looking for was standing next to the box with the keys of guests who parked in the hotel garage. She turned into the long, circular driveway, pulled around a cab, and parked her shiny new Lexus in front of him.
"Carlos?" she asked when he walked over to the driver's window.
"I'm Claire. I'm filling in for Barbara Bridger, just for tonight."
"She told me what you'd be driving," Carlos said as he opened Claire's door. Claire grabbed the book that lay on her passenger seat and got out.
"It'll be over there," he said, pointing to an area at the end of the driveway.
Claire thanked Carlos and handed him a folded bill, which he slipped into his pocket. He was driving the car to the spot he'd indicated when the doorman welcomed Claire to the Newbury, one of Seattle's finest hotels.
There was a convention in town and the Newbury was packed with laughing, chatting people. Claire shouldered through them until she stood in the center of the lobby. She scanned the crowd. He wasn't there. A bell signaled the arrival of an elevator. Claire cast an anxious glance at her watch, then focused on the group of conventioneers that poured out. For a moment Claire did not see him. Then Miles Van Meter was standing in front of the bank of elevators. His sandy blond hair and blue eyes had been touched up in the color photograph on the back of the book jacket of Sleeping Beauty to hide his gray hairs, and he was a little shorter than Claire had imagined, but he was just as handsome in person as he was on television.
The lawyer-turned-writer was in his forties, five-foot-ten, broad-shouldered, and trim. He had dressed in a tailored gray pinstripe suit, white Oxford cloth shirt, and a tasteful Armani tie. Most escorts would have been surprised by the elegance of Van Meter's attire. Male authors traditionally wore sports jackets on their tours -- if they wore jackets at all -- and damn few brought ties with them. You packed light and opted for comfort when you spent weeks of one-nighters, rising before dawn each day to catch another short flight to another strange city. But Miles Van Meter, a corporate attorney with a large firm of business lawyers, was used to traveling first class and dressing expensively.