Sara Labriola is a married woman haunted by the shattering secrets of her past-and terrified of the future. Tired of living in fear-and knowing that if she stays in her marriage she'll be killed-Sara decides to do the only thing she can: she makes herself disappear. One afternoon, without telling a soul, she packs a single suitcase and leaves her life in Long Island behind. In New York City, she will reinvent herself. She will change her identity, and maybe even get the happy ending she's always dreamed of. But that dream is about to become a nightmare when her father-in-law decides to make her pay for abandoning his son. Leo Labriola runs his modest but lucrative criminal organization like he does his family-with unspeakable brutality and zero tolerance for disobedience. He's determined to teach Sara a lesson and he'll stop at nothing to do it. Now six differently desperate and dangerous men-each with the power to destroy her-are on Sara's trail.
A kaleidoscopic array of viewpoints tumble and shift in this latest suspense thriller by Edgar Award-winner Cook (The Interrogation, etc.), until the facts settle into place and the full picture can be understood. The complex arrangement of voices and events works smoothly, bringing each of the protagonists more clearly into focus as the story progresses. As the novel begins, Sara Labriola is fleeing Tony, her husband of nine years. It's not that she doesn't love him, but Tony's overbearing mobster father, Leo, casts a long shadow over Sara and Tony's marriage. Around the same time, sad sack Mortimer, a broke gambler who owes Leo $15,000, learns he has three months to live. Desperate to discharge his debts and leave a little something for his wife before he dies, he agrees to help Vinnie Caruso, who's following orders from Leo to find Sara. Mortimer turns to the shadowy Stark, an obsessive, tightly wound man who excels at finding people. Stark is haunted by the fate of a woman he found years earlier, and he suspects that this case, too, is not about a loving husband looking for his spouse. Sara, meanwhile, has stumbled into a New York nightclub frequented by Mortimer, where she gets a job as a singer. Cleverly manipulated coincidence provides much of the driving force here, to excellent effect. Although most of the characters are cookie-cutter noir, neat turns of phrase and tight plotting make for an engaging read. (Feb. 3) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 24, 2005
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Excerpt from Peril by Thomas H. Cook
Each time she thought of it, she felt her body shiver, felt the pistol cold in her hand, the pressure of her finger as it drew down upon the trigger. And so she put it out of her mind, because if you played it over and over, the shadows would deepen around you, thicken until they suffocated you, or until you became a shadow yourself. And so she put it out of her mind because she couldn t stand the shivering anymore, the icy feel of the metal, the way her eyes had narrowed into slits at that moment, as if she were melting in this boiling pit of hatred. Kill him, the voice had commanded at that instant. Kill him now!
She whirled around and headed up the stairs to the bedroom she d shared with Tony for the last nine years. With every step she crumbled a little, just as she had years before when she d fled the South, headed north, already making up a new name, a new identity. She half expected parts of her body to fall away as she continued up the stairs, a tuft of hair on the third step, a hand on the fourth. But she moved determinedly despite the sensation of breaking apart, and somehow the forward movement knit her together, momentum a force in itself, driving her onward like a stone hurled through bushes, razing the path it took.
Tony s underwear lay crumpled on his side of the bed. The rest of his clothes were strewn haphazardly about the room, lifeless as pelts. He d thrown them on the floor, probably because his father had told him that was what a man should do. Tony s father. She closed her eyes tightly and tried to squeeze him out of her mind. Even so, she could hear Leo Labriola going at Tony, laying down the law, daring him to disobey it. A woman has to learn certain things, Tony. One of them, she thought, was to stoop. Another was to keep quiet no matter what raged inside you. And the last, and for the Old Man, the most important, was that a woman should always be afraid.
And she had been afraid, she realized, and not just of Labriola or Tony or of Sheriff Caulfield on that summer afternoon he d pulled her over, citing a broken taillight. She d been afraid all her life afraid to cross her father, afraid to be alone, afraid to stay and afraid to leave, afraid to say no to some things and yes to others. Now she was afraid of the future. And these large fears fueled smaller ones, so that at this very moment, in the midst of flight, she remained afraid even to leave Tony s clothes on the floor, though at last she decided to do precisely that, leave his clothes scattered across the plush blue carpet, his first clue that things had changed. When he got home tonight, he d notice that his clothes had not been picked up, and there d be a click in his head, audible as a pistol shot, She s gone.
She spun violently and strode to the closet, yanked the suitcase from the shelf, and began to pack. She took no shorts or swimsuit or sandals; she was packing not for a few days away but for the rest of her life, and she made sure there was nothing temporary about the clothes she selected, nothing that suggested she might change her mind, return to the sun-drenched house, the glittering pool. The clothes she chose were decidedly simple, the colors gray and black, appropriate camouflage for the hidden life she would live from now on. She selected them like one readying for nocturnal battle, and as she packed each item she tried to think of herself as one of the women warriors she d read about, armored, mounted, broadsword in hand, brave in a way she d never been but now had to be if she were going to climb out of the quicksand of her life.