The Wrong Man
John Katzenbach
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Buy *The Wrong Man* by John Katzenbach online

The Wrong Man
John Katzenbach
512 pages
May 2007
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The latest from bestselling author John Katzenbach (The Traveler, The Analyst, Hart’s War, The Madman’s Tale) delves into the psychosis of an obsessed psychopath while simultaneously showing the power of parental love. The Wrong Man opens with Scott Freeman, an academic type of man, finding a crumpled love letter to his daughter Ashley, a Boston art history grad student away at college. The tone of the letter doesn’t sit right with him, and he makes a call to his daughter who was less than forthright with him. Ashley finally tells her family (which includes her mother, Sally, and her lesbian lover, Hope) about her one-night stand with the handsome Michael O’Connell. Ashley didn’t want to see him again after that one encounter. But the savvy O’Connell stalks Ashley relentlessly: flowers, email, and phone calls.

But O’Connell won’t go away. Scott and Sally try to talk to the troubled man, but that goes for naught. Since the logical approach won’t work, Scott gives him five thousand dollars to go away. But O’Connell balks at the idea that he can be bought. In his psychotic mind, he is massively in love with Ashley and no amount of money will get him to go away. This feeble plan backfires miserably as everyone’s life goes awry: Scott is accused of plagiarism, Ashley is accused of not attending lectures by her professor, and Sally has money missing from bank accounts. O’Connell is pure psychopath:

“He wondered if he killed the man who kissed Ashley. There was a good chance. His first blow had caught up around the temple, and he heard bone crack. The man had dropped fast, slamming back against a tree, which was lucky, because it muffled the sound as he had tumbled over. Even if someone had overheard something, curiosity pricked, and looked out the window, both he and the man who kissed Ashley were obscured by the tree and several parked cars. It had been an easy matter to drag him back into the shadows of the alleyway. The kicking and punching had only taken a few seconds. A burst of savagery almost like a sexual climax, unrelenting, explosive, and then finished. As he shoved the unconscious body behind some metal canisters, he’d removed the man’s wallet, rapidly packed his homemade weapon into the duffel, and, moving quickly, cut through the darkness back to Porter Square subway station. It had been incredibly easy. Sudden. Anonymous. Vicious.”
After the private investigator assigned to case is found dead, the family (Scott, Sally, and Hope) band together and embark on a mission to be rid O’Connell once and for all. Katzenbach deftly weaves a dark tale and creates believable, multi-dimensional characters, although multiple point-of-view shifts among the central characters makes for a bit of a jumbled read. A case can be made that the technique of this constant switching fully brings the characters to life, keeping us informed on what they are doing and thinking. Some, however, might find the shifts between first-person and third-person narrative to be somewhat confusing and disruptive. It all depends on your taste and reading habits. But overall, The Wrong Man is a solid thriller with a really evil antagonist who will get your blood boiling for sure.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Bobby Blades, 2006

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