Two brothers are connected to a murder—in divergent ways—in this novel.
At the beginning of Random’s (Defying Gravity, 2016) tale, there’s a body, a weapon, an eyewitness, and a confession. Harvard psychology professor Olek Janko died in his apartment from knife wounds inflicted by Gary Vaughn. Gary confesses to the homicide, which his brother, Maynard, witnessed and reported to the authorities. What veteran Police Lt. Joe “The Bull” Antonelli thinks will be a clear-cut case turns bizarre when “attractive and ambiguously ethnic” Detective Cassandra “Cassie” Navarro reveals that the Vaughn boys share a connection more profound that brotherhood: they are conjoined twins. Maynard is a soft-spoken, articulate, and presumed innocent witness to a murder, and Gary is the coldblooded killer. The Vaughns, joined at the abdomen, had been part of a twin study Janko was conducting; now Antonelli summarizes: “We have a confessed murderer, but we have an apparently innocent man attached to him.” Courtroom scenes present a riveting debate as to the degree that conjoined twins can be independent—is it just a physical condition, or if one twin has a mind to kill, how involved psychologically is the other in that decision? And if he can’t be punished without penalizing Maynard, did Gary commit the perfect crime? During their investigation, Antonelli and Cassie interview Janko’s estranged wife and former research assistant, Christina Cole, who seems more concerned with the twins than with her dead husband. The story moves quickly, and Random is able to craft a plot that sounds far-fetched on the surface but becomes poignantly believable. Descriptions are rich: “A black sky salted with stars” and “The brothers were looking in two different directions at once—like a lizard whose eyes work independently of each other.” Smart dialogue fills quick-paced scenes, and accounts of Boston’s North End are vivid (cannoli, anyone?). Strong women and players of various ethnicities fill the pages. Lead character Antonelli is a bit of a sexagenarian dandy, with his hand-tailored suits and gold-embossed cuff links.
A winning twin spin that combines an ethical conundrum with a police procedural.