cover image COLD SPRINGS


Rick Riordan, . . Bantam, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-553-80236-8

Riordan is a middle-school teacher in San Antonio, which explains why this unorthodox suspense novel—Riordan's first break from his Edgar-, Shamus- and Anthony-winning series about private detective Tres Navarre (The Devil Went Down to Austin, etc.)—centers around two very different kinds of schools. One is Laurel Heights, a private middle school in San Francisco, where a dedicated staff deals with the needs of the privileged children of the affluent. The other is Cold Springs, a survival school in the mountain country of Texas, where a former army Ranger rescues teenagers who have slipped over the edge. Linking the two schools is Chadwick, a huge man who looks like George Washington; he teaches history at Laurel Heights and then becomes an escort at Cold Springs (run by his old Vietnam buddy) when his own teenaged daughter, Katherine, dies of a drug overdose. Chadwick, who blames himself for Katherine's death (he was about to leave his wife for Ann Zedman, the woman who runs Laurel Heights), is a complex and interesting character, and the pressures on him are believable and absorbing—especially when Ann's daughter, Mallory, becomes a Cold Springs candidate. Riordan tilts the playing field by introducing a truly dysfunctional family, the Montroses, and tracing a string of murders related to Katherine's death. Knife-throwing, wild shooting and hairbreadth escapes up the ante, sometimes to the point of overkill, but Riordan is so good at moving his story along—and showing how fragile children's lives can be—that most readers will forgive him his excesses. (May 6)