A Perfect Crime
Peter Abrahams
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Get Peter Abrahams' *A Perfect Crime* delivered to your door! A Perfect Crime
Peter Abrahams
Ballantine Books
384 pages
September 1999
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Peter 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.

Curled Up With a Good BookFrancie 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 terrifyingly deadly.

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.

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