Aaron Elkins, Author . Morrow $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-019770-4
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Best known for the witty, Francophiliac Gideon Oliver mystery series, Elkins here delivers a stand-alone thriller that probes wartime guilt from multiple angles. For history professor Pete Simon and his French-born wife, Lily, Brooklyn in 1963 is worlds away from the horrors of WWII. But when Lily's father, Marcel Vercier, turns up on their doorstep begging her to view an old film, the Simons' cozy life combusts. Lily had always maintained that her father had been shot by the Nazis in 1943; now, caught in her lie and troubled by unfathomable other secrets, she refuses to answer Pete's urgent questions. Before the Simons can see the film, Vercier is murdered, and masked thugs break into their apartment, demanding to have it. Lily hands it over, then disappears, leaving Pete a cryptic note about needing "space." Feeling like a sap, Pete decides to find her anyway, flying to Barcelona, where Vercier was apparently partner in an antiques dealership. A tough interview with the dead man's cagey co-partner, Charles Lebrun, reveals little about the film, the murder or Lily's whereabouts, but it does enlighten Pete as to Vercier's wartime collaboration with Nazi occupiers. As Pete delves deeper into Vercier's past, he learns painful truths about Lily's family, finally concluding, "When it comes to making blanket moral judgements about people—please, leave me out of it." Some of the characters are sketchy, particularly Lily, who never amounts to more than an incredible simulation of Leslie Caron. The plot takes familiar paths, with an ending that ties up matters rather too neatly, especially given Pete's hard-earned tolerance for moral relativity. Still, this first-person novel captivates, largely because Pete's voice, a garlicky mix of France and Brooklyn, always sounds just right. 5-city West Coast author tour. (May 1)

Reviewed on: 05/06/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-06-103091-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7861-2468-8
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Paperback - 270 pages - 978-1-4976-4329-1
Ebook - 270 pages - 978-1-4976-1018-7
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