cover image TWO WOMEN


Brian Freemantle, . . Severn House, $26.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7278-5973-0

Freemantle pretty much defines "old pro" in the thriller genre; 2002 saw the publication of Ice Age and Kings of Many Castles (his most recent Charlie Muffin/MI6 adventure). But prolificacy can be a two-edged sword, as this creaky and rough-hewn attempt at a mafia thriller proves. In telling the story of New York accounting firm executive John Carver's battle with the ruling families of American crime, Freemantle creates scenes that feel oddly askew—almost akin to those black-and-white movies about American criminals that British studios produced in the 1950s. There's no shortage of action, and Carver's wife and his mistress—both central to the novel's plot—are sharply delineated. His wife, Jane, the protected daughter of the firm's domineering founder, must slowly come to terms with her father's criminal behavior as well as her husband's infidelity; his mistress, Alice, is a shrewd financial journalist but also a woman with strong mothering instincts. Jane is still reeling from her father's death when the news comes that her husband has been killed, too, in another "accident" that smacks of foul play. Alice aids the distraught Jane, and the two become uneasy partners in a world where they can trust no one—not even each other—as the mob closes in and the FBI probe heats up. Their scenes together are always interesting and often credible, but the same can't be said for the unconvincing bad guys. (Aug.)