>Thomas H. Cook, Red Leaves


This American psychological thriller is a stand-alone. The writer has written several novels but this one is the first I have read. I bought it myself.

You could say this really well-written story begins ´ab ovo´, or even before Eric´s son Keith is born. Eric loves his little family, but when Keith is fourteen, his father begins to suspect there are ´hidden depths´ and ´unexpected complexities´ to his son.

And then something terrible happens: eight-year-old Amy Giordano disappears, the neighbours´ only child, on an evening when Keith was babysitting her. The police begin an investigation, of course, but the focus in the story is Eric and his family, the story about what happens to a little family when they are involved in a criminal investigation.

At first Eric, the first-person and sometimes second-person narrator, seems to be an optimistic husband and father, and on the surface he does all he can to support Keith who is obviously in the limelight. He does not really understand Keith, his sullen and withdrawn teenageson, and perhaps not even his wife, Meredith. Soon Eric begins to brood over life, his present as well as his past in a rather dysfunctional family, and he wonders whether he could have read all the signs and saved his first family, his father, mother, brother and little sister, and now his own nuclear family.

Red autumn leaves are a recurrent theme in the novel which is full of premonition and a sense of inevitable doom rather than action and great discoveries. Meredith struggles to keep up the facade while Eric does his best to get through the cloud of suspicion and support his son. But, as he says, ´suspicion is an acid´.

My overall impression: some of the characters are well-drawn and convincing, but Meredith and the relationship between her and her husband did not sound very convincing to me. The beginning is fine and exciting and the ending did not disappoint me either, but the middle part struck me as somewhat weaker. The writer does much to build up tension and a sinister atmosphere of foreshadowing, but nothing much happens again until the last fifty pages or so.

I read it for the What´s in a name challenge # 6 (a plant) 


That Sagging Middle: as most of you know, I write crime novels and try to sell them, but this problem is so well-known to me that I almust blush when I accuse other writers of making this error. But while I am rather good at setting the crime scene and coming up with a satisfactory ending, I always struggle with the middle part.

Still, someone has to tell us about our weak parts, no matter whether the writer is me or someone who has already published several books.

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
This entry was posted in American, review, Thomas H. Cook. Bookmark the permalink.

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