The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 20, 2009

Book review: Psychological thriller hits ‘Too Close to Home’

‘Too Close to Home’

By Linwood Barclay

(compact disc audiobook)

Teenager Derek Cutter had made plans for a romantic week with his girlfriend to use the Langley’s house for a week while they are on vacation. Derek hides in the basement waiting for the Langleys to leave. They leave only to return a short time later when Mrs. Langley becomes ill.

As Derek hides and waits for his chance to escape without being found out, someone enters the house and shoots Mr. and Mrs. Langley and their son, Adam. After the killer leaves, a terrified Derek escapes to his own home without telling anyone.

Despite the closeness of the homes, Derek’s parents didn’t hear the gunshots and they don’t find out about the triple murder until the police pay them a visit the next day. Derek’s father, Jim, used to be a driver for the city’s mayor, but now he runs a landscaping service with help from Derek. Ellen, Jim’s wife, works for the college president, the author of a best-selling book that he has used to his advantage and that plays a large part in the mystery.

Adam and Derek had always enjoyed tinkering with discarded computers, and when the police take him back to the Cutters’ house, Derek notices that one of the old computers is missing from Adam’s room. He also knows what was on the computer and had made a copy of it. Derek shows it to his parents, who cannot escape the secrets from their own pasts.

This psychological thriller is full of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end. Barclay’s complicated novel contains diverse characters with believable relationships. Christopher Lane’s narration is excellent as usual and certainly added to the suspense.

‘Lethal Legacy’

By Linda Fairstein

(compact disc audiobook)

Alex Cooper, an assistant district attorney in New York City, is called upon to investigate the attack of Tina Barr in her apartment. Homicide detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace accompany Cooper to Tina’s apartment. Tina was attacked by an unknown assailant and may be the victim of a sexual assault, but she refuses to discuss what happened or seek medical treatment.

The next day, a dead woman is discovered in Tina’s apartment along with a very valuable book. The woman turns out to be the housekeeper of wealthy Minerva Hunt and was wearing the clothes of her employer. Tina’s body is discovered a few days later. The investigative trio eventually learns that Tina is a former New York Public Library librarian and a restorer of rare books who has ties to some of the library’s richest contributors.

As Alex, Chapman and Mercer trek through the New York Public Library’s underground tunnels, forgotten apartments and hidden rooms in their quest to unlock the secrets of centuries-old rare maps and books, they attempt to find the person or people willing to kill for these treasures. It’s interesting to observe the interaction among the three investigators as they discover secrets that could destroy the legacies of the some of the largest benefactors of the old library.

This is not the typical Alex Cooper mystery, but I found it absorbing since it contains all the elements that interest me —- a library, reading and books, and an enjoyable mystery. Linda Fairstein presents an incredible depth of research about the history of the New York Public Library and its inner workings in this intriguing mystery. It was fascinating to learn about New York’s historic landmark and the incredible treasures contained within. The characters come alive as Barbara Rosenblat lends her brilliant narrative abilities to this mystery.

Both novels are also available in regular print editions at the Joplin Public Library.

Phyllis Seesengood is the technical services librarian at Joplin Public Library.