cover image Mortal Memory

Mortal Memory

Thomas H. Cook. Putnam Publishing Group, $21.95 (285pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13829-4

In Cook's 11th novel (among them Edgar nominees Blood Innocents and Sacrificial Ground ), the violence is all in the past (save for a car crash) but the level of terror is daunting. Fortyish narrator Steve Farris is an architect who lives with his wife and son in the suburbs. For him architecture ``is a world which has no room for chance,'' but one that changes drastically when he is contacted by Rebecca Soltero, who wants to interview him for a book she's writing about men who murdered their families. For in 1959 Steve's father fatally shotgunned his wife and their teenage daughter and son, then vanished. Nine-year-old Stevie, desperately missing his gifted 16-year-old sister, managed to block out all thoughts about the deaths. Now Rebecca lures him into talking, and he is forced to acknowledge the questions that have haunted his subconscious mind: Did his father mean to kill him, too? What secret did his father and his sister share? The novel keeps shifting back and forth in time, from the present to ``that last year'' to the years before Steve's birth to the immediate aftermath of the deaths, but always comes back to the horrible deed--the excruciating how and the unanswerable why. The deceptively simple writing is harrowing as Steve allows his mind to probe more deeply, examining remembered looks, words and nuances. Terror builds and the ending to this chilling study in psychological suspense is a dizzying jolt. (Apr.)