Red Leaves by Thomas H Cook

I can’t remember when I bought Red Leaves, but wrote last October that it had then been in my unread shelves for a while. Stimulated by Lizzy’s comment on our Revish crime-fiction reading list that it is the best crime-fiction book she’s ever read, I decided to give it a whirl.

I agree that it is a pretty good book. Red Leaves doesn’t waste words: it is a focused, claustrophobic tale of an apparently happy nuclear American family falling apart under psychological stress. The book is told from the point of view of Eric, the husband and father, but the story is really about his teenage son, Keith, who is the chief suspect when a young girl goes missing.  The cracks in the family relationships hinted at near the start of the book gradually widen into chasms. At the same time, Eric’s memories of his own childhood come to the fore, as his unspoken fears about his own son’s possible guilt have roots in long-ago events.

I’ll be on the lookout for more books by Thomas H. Cook, as I liked the way in which he notches up the tension without the need for heroics or pyrotechnics; and I liked the way he exposes the sinister nature of the family and small-town emotions underneath the veneer of everyday routine.