Abrahams, author of eight previous novels (including The
Fan, which was made into a motion picture starring Robert DeNiro
and Wesley Snipes), treats suspense readers to a page-turning new thriller.
Set in New England with a quick side trip to Florida, A Perfect Crime
rises above the odd implausability or two to stand as an entertaining tale
of lust, guilt and murder.
Francie Cullingwood's marriage is sham. She can track its devolution
back to the time long past when she and her husband, Roger, tried and
failed to have a child. Roger's sperm were at fault, and he refused to
adopt: the whole point of having children was to pass on superior genes,
couldn't Francie see that? Husband and wife have gone for the most part
their separate ways. Francie has made a successful career acquiring art
for an unnamed foundation; Roger's life has been devoted to his career
as an investor.
Two things hasten the Cullingwood's marriage to an overdue close.
First, Roger loses his job in a corporate downsizing, becoming embittered
and reclusive. Second, Francie finds herself in love with another man.
An affair that began with a chance encounter at a friend's island cabin
has become the most important thing in her life. Although she has neither
asked for nor received any promises of a future from her married lover
(a talk-radio psychologist), Francie resolves to leave Roger after he
nearly rapes her.
Roger discovers a painting Francie purchased for her lover, Ned. An
incriminatingly endearing note with the painting alerts Roger to his
wife's indiscretion, and the awareness that he has been cuckolded drives
him over an edge he didn't even know he was near. An intelligent man with
a decidedly genius-level IQ, Roger begins to plot the perfect crime --
one that will leave Francie dead and himself impeccably clear of incrimination.
Francie befriends Ned's wife before knowing their relationship. To
know and like the woman she and her lover are betraying is too great a
load on her already strained sense of morals. As she prepares to end
the affair with the man she loves more than anyone, Francie is dangerously
ignorant of Roger's evolving scheme of revenge. When Roger's accomplice
(perhaps "almost-unwitting tool" better describes Whitey Traux) becomes
a loose cannon, an innocent is caught in the web of betrayal, lies and
murder, and the perfect crime becomes something farther reaching and
Abrahams has drawn several compelling characters, especially with
Francie. Her anguished indecision over having the greatest love she's ever
known or doing the right thing draws agonized empathy from the reader.
Roger is less astutely characterized, and his perfect crime hinges on
rather a large coincedence, but he is truly a villain. With several
genuinely horrifying plot twists, A Perfect Crime is a perfectly
intense novel of psychological suspense.