cover image Undone


Michael Kimball. Avon Books, $23 (341pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97305-7

In the first scene of Kimball's electrifying new novel of psychological suspense, Bobby Swift is getting ready to be buried alive, part of an elaborate scheme to fake his own death so that he can keep $2 million from a defaulted loan and leave Gravity, Maine, for a life of leisure in the Cayman Islands. But Bobby meets a cruel fate when his wife and co-conspirator, Noel, fails to unearth him from the grave. After the third participant in the plan, an undertaker, is murdered, Bobby's best friend, Sal Erickson, is quickly drawn into the speculation and intrigue arising from the two deaths. Sal, a music teacher and recovering alcoholic, complicates his already problematic relationship with his wife, Iris, by falling off the wagon and pursuing a destructive affair with Noel, a seductive femme fatale who may be a victimized widow--or a clever murderess. Muddying the waters further are the schemes of Iris's brother Jerry, a shrewd redneck who plans to use incriminating evidence to blackmail Noel into an affair, and the conflict between the local constable and two government detectives assigned to the case. Kimball (Firewater Pond) skillfully juggles the murderous motives of varied suspects, all the while tightening the noose around Sal's neck as he begins to suspect that Noel is double-crossing him. The characters, briefly drawn but compelling, vivify the passions that lurk beneath the placid surface of a rural community and that, here, resolve dramatically in a keen-edged climax. 25,000 first printing. (Oct.)