A harrowing psychological thriller from Harrar (Parents Wanted, 2001, etc.) about a mild-mannered philosophy professor who falls under suspicion of kidnapping.
Evan Birch has managed to piece together a rather nice life for himself. Happily married and father of twin sons, he has a tenured chair in the philosophy department of Pearce College and has published a new study (Disturbing Minds: Mania, Mayhem, and Melancholy in the Philosophic Life) that he expects will cement his reputation as one of the most original minds in his field. But fate is a fickle thing. Driving home from the supermarket with his sons one night, Evan is pulled over and taken to the police station in handcuffs. Robert Malloy, the detective who interrogates Evan, explains that they’re investigating the kidnapping of a local teenager named Joyce Bonner and that Evan’s car matches the description of the last vehicle Bonner was seen in before her disappearance. Where was Evan on the afternoon of August 23rd? Evan provides an alibi and is allowed to go—but Malloy soon comes calling again. Certain aspects of Evan’s story don’t fit. For one thing, a search of Evan’s car has produced lipstick, a cigarette lighter, and strands of hair that belonged to Joyce. Later on, the detective learns from Joyce’s diary that she not only knew Evan but was in love with him (her friends say they thought she was having an affair). And Evan’s own family begins to have doubts. His wife finds a book of hotel matches in Evan’s jacket with the cryptic annotation “7:00 p.m.” on it. One of his sons admits that his father was over an hour late picking him up from camp on the day Joyce disappeared. And what’s behind the nickname (“Professor Romeo”) that Evan’s students have given him? There’s enough here for Malloy to make an arrest. And enough for a jury to convict?
A splendid exercise in suspense and terror: keeps you guessing right to the end.