cover image Instruments of the Night

Instruments of the Night

Thomas H. Cook. Bantam Books, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10554-4

Cook's previous novel, The Chatham School Affair (1996), won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. His latest is every bit its equal, a beautifully composed tale with enough plot twists to satisfy even fans who have learned to expect surprises from this talented author. Protagonist Paul Graves is a writer of dark, violent crime novels that feature a sadistic killer, Kessler, his cringing assistant, Sykes, and Slovak, the detective who doggedly pursues these master criminals. Graves sets his stories in turn-of-the-century New York--far enough back in time that he can safely distance himself from the grisly crimes he conjures. But he can't distance himself from the horror that he still feels at the murder of his own sister, committed when he was a child. As the novel begins, Graves is asked to investigate a real murder by Allison Davies, who runs a writer's colony at Riverwood, her family estate in the Hudson River Valley. In 1946, a young girl, Faye Harrison, was murdered there, and the crime has never been solved. The victim's aged mother would like some closure before she dies. Graves agrees to look into the crime in order to keep his own personal demons at bay for a while longer. Cook employs many of the typical conventions of the genre, even resorting to the classic device of timetables. His complex plot is anything but dated, however. He excels in devising harrowing situations that eerily echo Graves's personal tragedy, ultimately delivering another indelibly haunting tale that once again demonstrates that he is among the best in the business. (Nov.)