This weekend, one of my picks was an earlier Peter Abrahams crime novel: DELUSION, from 2008. It was his seventeenth crime novel. I find the number even more startling because not only is Abrahams writing his Chet series too, but he's moved into "young adult" (YA) fiction with his Echo Falls series (Down the Rabbit Hole, 2005; Behind the Curtain, 2006; Into the Dark, 2008), and his newest teen protagonist takes on crime in Bullet Point, which came out in May of this year. (See his website, peterabrahams.com.)
Where and whose are the delusions in DELUSION? The novel's opening makes it clear that Pirate, a murderer serving life in prison, has more than a few, including his intimate connection with Job in the Bible -- a story he believes is his own. He's there in large part because of the eyewitness testimony of Nell Jarreau, who 20 years ago saw her boyfriend get killed. The violence took place literally next to her, and there was little room for doubt about the identification.
But new evidence has just been unearthed due to the recent hurricane in the Gulf Coast town of Belle Ville. And either it's a really skilled fake, or it proves that Pirate -- that is, Alvin Du Pree -- didn't commit the murder. Making things even worse for Nell as the prisoner's release is announced is the fact that this case made the stellar reputation of the detective on it. And she's now married to him, in a warmly collaborative relationship that embraces their shared passion for snorkeling in the Bahamas, their daughter Norah, their home and town.
Making things even harder is Lee Ann Bonner, an old friend of Nell's. Lee Ann is now a journalist, and she's got the scent of the chase. When she drags Nell into the violence and brutality that underlie what looked like the perfect life, Nell's marriage starts looking shaky as well.
Lee Ann started in on a complicated answer Nell had trouble processing, all about something called the Justice Project, Hurricane Bernardine, FEMA, video cameras. Only the last sentence stuck in her mind, stuck like a fact sharpened at one end.I enjoyed this book's pace and plot very much. Sometimes I got frustrated with the changes of point of view -- Pirate is far from likeable, and I didn't want to see things through his eyes after a bit -- but that's more a sign of me, I suspect, than of any flaw in the narrative. And the final spinning together of crime, punishment, consequnces, and marital hurricane gave a deeply satisfying conclusion.
"He didn't do it."
A couple of small things stayed on my mind afterward, hints and perhaps red herrings about Nell that I noted as a mystery reader and expected to learn more about. Maybe there's another Nell novel yet to come, which would explain why Abrahams left them dangling in this one. I hope so.