DEATH RUN by Jim Murphy


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What happens when some malicious teasing by four teenagers ends in unintended death. Brian, younger than gang leader Roger and happy to be included, is one of the four drinking beer in the park when schoolmate Bill Janowski walks by with his basketball. They grab the ball, toss it back and forth. . . then Roger slams it against Janowski's face, knocking him down. What the horrified boys then witness, though they don't know it at the time, is an epileptic seizure followed by a burst aneurism that sends blood trickling from Janowski's nose and mouth. The four take off, and though Brian thinks they should report the incident, Roger talks him into keeping quiet. Later, after they know of Janowski's death, Roger and his sidekick set up Brian and another nervous and tenuous member of the group: If they tell, it will look like they did it. So Brian sweats it out, becoming more and more obsessed--and, to Detective Sergeant Robert Wheeler, more and more obviously obsessed--with avoiding detection. Murphy alternates the depiction of Brian's ordeal with passages from the viewpoint of Wheeler, who pursues the case when officials want it closed. Wheeler, we learn, has his own demon to lay: the panic shooting and killing of a fleeing kid years earlier, and the near repetition of that act as he closes in on Brian. That Murphy has us liking Wheeler before disclosing his past act is a neat trick, and throughout, he involves us in this standard plot with his empathetic projections of both hunter and hunted.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1982
Publisher: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin