Well, well, well. We're up to Day 3 of my very own personal Edgar Award for Best Novel and now we're getting to the good stuff. This is where things heat up. Because today is a look at one of the best novels published in 2013, Thomas H. Cook's Sandrine's Case.
Taking place over the course of college professor Samuel Madison's trial for the murder of his wife, Sandrine's Case is evidence of what a truly talented author can do with even the most basic plot premise. Sam comes home one evening to find his terminally-ill wife dead. He calls the police. The police become suspicious. An autopsy reveals a painkiller overdose. Enough circumstantial evidence is collected to arrest Sam for the murder of his wife, Sandrine. A simply plot. A very, very riveting novel. Our narrator is the good professor himself and he is neither entirely reliable nor always likable. But does this make him a murderer?
As Sam ruminates over his memories of his long marriage with Sandrine, layer upon layer is pulled back to reveal new information. Like any marriage, theirs had stumbling blocks. Infidelity. Emotional withdrawal. Different goals. It becomes very difficult - yet crucial - for the reader to discern whether Sam's memories would have the same as Sandrine's.
The momentum builds quickly in this novel and the need to reach the end becomes just as frantic for the reader as it does for Sam as he awaits his verdict. It becomes nearly impossible to put the book down -- set aside a block of time for this one.
Cook (who is a previous Edgar winner for his 1996 novel The Chatham School Affair) is nearly pitch-perfect here. No loose ends, nothing left unexplained, and complex themes that you don't even realize are there until the last page is turned. If you enjoy a very well-plotted suspense novel written by an author at the top of his game, this is your book. I would have chosen Sandrine's Case as my own Personal Edgar Award winner this year had it not had the misfortune of being published the same year as the last and final entry I'll feature tomorrow - Ordinary Grace. Stay tuned....