cover image The Primitive

The Primitive

Stephen Amidon. Ecco Press, $23 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-88001-411-3

A would-be good Samaritan waxes self-destructive in his efforts to help an injured woman escape her past in this intriguing, low-key mystery from the author of Splitting the Atom, Subdivision and Thirst. On his way home to the once-prosperous tobacco town of Burleigh, N.C., reluctant real-estate marketer David Webster runs a stranger off a remote stretch of road in the wake of a heavy storm. After pulling the attractive, disoriented woman from the wreckage of her car, David, for reasons he can't explain, stays involved. When the nameless woman disappears from the hospital, David finds her again, and though she is resolutely uncommunicative (she reluctantly tells him her name is Sara and refuses to identify herself further), he puts her up first in a motel and then in one of his boss's properties. The warning signs mount, but David only becomes more deeply entangled with Sara. He keeps the relationship a secret from his wife, his friends and the authorities as he attempts to uncover what he fears will be some unsavory secrets of her past. While Amidon's ending is abrupt and rather unsatisfying, his taut narrative generates great tension mixed with bouts of dry, rural Carolina humor. There is something fascinating in the mixture of lust, ennui and good intentions that pushes this protagonist to act with such unaccustomed abandon. (July)