THE SCARRED MAN by Keith Peterson


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Clever neo-Hitchcockian thriller--wherein a killer stalks the witnesses to his decades-old crime--by the pseudonymous author of the paperback John Wells mystery series and, under his real name of Andrew Klavan, the mainstream novels Face of the Earth (1980), Son of Man (1988), and Darling Clementine (1988). Peterson constantly confounds expectations here, beginning with narrator Michael North, who, like so many contemporary fictional heroes, is a hip young writer living on N.Y.C.'s Lower East Side. But budding journalist Michael's an is true crime, not fiction, so it's like flame to a moth when he learns that Susannah McGill--his new lover, his boss' daughter--and he share a subconscious terror of a presumably imaginary scarred man, a vicious killer. That revelation causes Susannah to flee from Michael in hysteria; he shares her fright when, months later, he visits her at college and spots the scarred man incarnate--who then tracks down the couple in N.Y.C. and tries to shoot them dead. But that's not the worst of it. A little digging shows Michael that he and Susannah aren't just lovers: they're brother and sister, separated orphans of a couple murdered 20 years before--by the scarred man? More digging takes the now-platonic duo back to their Indiana hometown, site of the murder--which, they learn, was reported on by Susannah's newspaperman dad. What's his role in all this? And what about the retarded black man wrongly convicted of the murder and about to die in the electric chair? Can the duo save him before the scarred man tracks them down, rubbing out the only witnesses to his crime? Suspense grows, major surprises flow freely as the past washes over the present, forcing a violent climax that sees the two reenact the mysterious night of the killing--and unveil its weird solution. A speed-read that skids on patches of overwrought prose (""He couldn't kill me . . .It had been ordained in the soul of revenge from the beginning,"" etc.) but never loses its twisty, entertaining way.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday