cover image The Late Man

The Late Man

James Preston Girard. Atheneum Books, $20 (277pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12183-8

An assured, literate writer, Girard has written a suspense novel that explores human relationships as well as the crime that brings them into focus. A Kansas college student is found murdered; the m.o. is the same as that of a known serial killer, but the police can't rule out a copycat. This grisly but conventional opening leads to a story of psychological complexity. Three people become obsessed with finding the killer: workaholic Capt. L. J. Loomis, a police detective whose ex-wife is about to move in with her sociology professor boyfriend; Sam Haun, a reporter whose wife and daughter died in a car crash; and wide-eyed young reporter Stosh Babicki. Haun learns that his dead wife was having an affair with Frank Rule, the same man who is now involved with Stosh. Haun's obsession with taking revenge on Rule nearly derails him, just as the web of deceptions and evasions among the three principals nearly derails the murder investigation. Though it lacks the suspense of a traditional thriller, this psychologically penetrating and often haunting novel carries the extra dimension of the author's empathy for his characters. It is the first for Girard under his own name; he previously wrote A Killing in Kansas , a paperback original under the pseudonym Jeffrey Tharp. (Sept.)