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Red Leaves    by Thomas H. Cook order for
Red Leaves
by Thomas H. Cook
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Meet Eric Moore, his wife Meredith, and their fifteen year old son Keith who seems to be a fairly normal teenager. However - as his father objectively though critically notes - Keith has 'always been a shy boy, awkward and withdrawn, prone to injury, and with an early dislike of physical contact ... But more than anything else, he gave off a sense of something enclosed, drawn in upon itself, disinclined to reach out.'

These people, unless appearances are deceiving, are members of a typical American family. Eric owns and operates a small town photography shop and framing studio. Meredith teaches English at a local community college. And Keith, a frustration to his parents because he has been an undistinguished student with no apparent interest in school and no apparent interest in a social life, occasionally earns a little extra money by working as a babysitter for the Giordano family.

On an evening during which Keith has been watching over eight-year-old Amy Giordano, something happens that will irrevocably change everything. A horrible crime appears to have been committed, and many of the people in town - including the Giordanos, the police, and even Keith's parents - believe that Keith has somehow been involved. Desperate people who are increasingly anxious for answers turn against the taciturn and uncooperative Keith. Disturbingly secretive and defensive, Keith can offer no explanation for what has apparently happened. Meanwhile, Eric Moore, the father upon whom Keith would have hoped that he could have turned for understanding and support, is not at all certain about Keith's professed innocence. As a father, Eric had always thought that he knew and understand his 'awkward and withdrawn' son. Now, however, Eric has terrible doubts and must confront the disturbing question, 'Can you ever know anyone?' and the grim reality, 'People aren't always what they seem.'

Thomas H. Cook's gripping and haunting mystery builds on the foregoing to become one of the very best novels of its type in the past several years. Finally available in trade paperback, and already having won high praise by being a 2006 Edgar Award nominee for best novel, Cook's beautifully written, heart-wrenching, and gut-wrenching story explores the burdensome tensions that exist between truth and deceit, and looks closely at an ordinary family - perhaps like yours or mine or someone you know - that can be suddenly torn apart by mistrust, misunderstandings, and secrets. I promise that Red Leaves will leave you gasping as it races to its surprising and devastating conclusion. Don't miss it!

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