The PhD stalker

One of the pieces of advice mums and dads pass on to their sons who have reached maturity is not to go with women who have more problems than they do. Advice worth following, for the lads are ill-equipped to deal with them. Indeed, most mature men can’t either. Best leave it to trained and experienced shrinks.

Six Years by Harlan Coben 358pp 2013 Orion paperback Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops 395 baht

Six Years by popular American author Harlan Coben is a case in point. Jack Fisher is a college professor, but his PhD is of no avail when the girl he has been pillowing chooses to wed another, telling Jack to get out or her life. What makes Nellie Avery extra special is unclear, yet he’s infatuated.

More like obsessed — Jack would die for her. It was all he could do not to join Todd Sanderson and bride on their honeymoon abroad, where they settled down. He was still carrying a torch for her when the news of Todd’s murder reached him. The swain was ready to make another play for his lady love.

But Nellie had disappeared. Jack’s search takes over 300 pages. Coben details his efforts — looking up her relatives (Nellie’s father, also a college professor, had abandoned the Avery hearth and home a decade earlier). Her teachers and classmates are interviewed.

To all intents and purposes Jack is a stalker, even if the person he’s stalking is nowhere to be seen.

In the penultimate chapter, three Mexican cartel hoods have the drop on Jack when Nellie finally appears, gun in hand. Escapes from certain death are a vital part of the genre, albeit never credible. Suffice to say that she outshoots the pistoleros. Will boy and girl get to walk off into the future together?

To give you a hint, Nellie is the same kook she always was. Then again, Jack isn’t the brightest star in the firmament. You kind of figure that they were meant for each other.

Whether unpleasant characters make for a pleasant read is for you to decide.

Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark 445pp 2014 Simon & Schuster paperback Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops 315 baht

Art for money’s sake

There is crime on every level of society — mugging and pickpocketing are low on the totem-pole, while embezzlement and investment scams are higher up. Arrest and imprisonment are the wages of those who think they can outsmart the law. Yet such crimes, and worse, continue because there are perps who figure that the profits to be made are worth trying for.

Not hundreds or thousands — chicken feed! — but millions, tens of millions. To acquire which, throwing in a new murder is acceptable. Police departments in every city and state, the FBI nationwide, are up to their necks in protecting and serving.

Crime novelists need look no further than real life, reported by the media and, closer to home, the experiences of their family, friends and neighbours.

Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting focuses on cheating in the art world. The Big Apple is the venue. Though Mary Higgins Clark writes well, the plot isn’t altogether original. Few plots are for that matter. Identical twin brothers, one passing himself off as the other. Only his niece knows Connor isn’t Douglas Connelly. And her life may be the price for this knowledge.

The Connellys have a museum of one-of-a-kind priceless antiques coveted by other museums, with astronomical bids from private collectors. Look but don’t touch — artistic integrity is the high principle of the family. For all but Connor, the black sheep.

He has found somebody able to duplicate classical furniture so well that few experts can detect the fakes. Secretly, he’s been selling the fakes for the originals. But in time the scam is detected here and there. There is nothing for him but to blow up the museum for insurance.

Bodies pile up, Connor slipping into Douglas’ shoes as head of the family. He is also being blackmailed by a dealer and his daughter threatens to tell all. The police are brought in, but will they lose their scepticism in time to save her? The author keeps us guessing until the penultimate chapter.

The reviewer would be hard placed to choose between Mary Higgins Clark and Ruth Rendell as the literary Queen of Suspense. I think I would give the nod to Higgins. She’s getting on, but is still in fine form. Be that as it may, art crime is sadly prevalent.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer