The Bourne Supremacy - Robert Ludlum

***** (Almost) nobody is like Jason Bourne

The second book in the original trilogy of Jason Bourne deviates a lot from the first one. Once solved the dilemma about the identity of the protagonist, Ludlum offers new scenarios, threats, and challenges to our secret super-agent.
For the reader, finding the old characters mixes up with the need to remain attentive while reading, in order to understand the tangled plot. Ludlum takes us to China in the 80s and tells us about the socio-political mechanisms of that period, of which he shows a deep understanding. Maybe we don’t catch them all, but we gain an overall picture that fascinates and worries, and that no doubt makes the happiness of any spy story fan (like me!).
In addition, there’s the timeless charm of Webb/Bourne, the damaged hero, on the brink of madness (a word that Ludlum uses very often!), crazy and fragile, not infallible, who can be cold, but also love with depth. Next to him the character of Marie (my favourite after Bourne), as well as those of Alex and Mo, are equally central in the story and engaging. And they are especially essential to call the protagonist back to the reality, so that he can put aside the Bourne that is in him and go back to being David Webb.
The only negative aspect is the presence of some passages that are a little slow and some unnecessary repetition of what happened in the first book.
A trivia about Ludlum’s writing: there isn’t any kind of foul language in his books, he prefers to use euphemisms and metaphors, and yet, strangely, there are a lot of profanities. All the characters, from first to last, at least once invoke God, or Jesus Christ (or variants), but don’t say a single f-word!

“Kindred Intentions” on sale for $0.99 until 31 October

It was odd that she tried to enter the mind of a man like him. What he was, what she thought he was, would have been contrary to her most unshakable resolutions up until a few weeks earlier. Inconceivable.
How things changed. In a few weeks, in an hour, in a second.

Meet Amelia and Mike.
A killer squad is hunting them and they have one day to survive, and change their lives forever.

Now you can meet Amelia and Mike for a very special price.
“Kindred Intentions” is available on sale for $0.99 (or £0.99) on Amazon, GooglePlay, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, Scribd, Inktera, and Smashwords until 31 October 2016.

This offer applies on Amazon for US and UK residents only, but is open worldwide on the other retailers. Both Kindle and ePub editions are DRM free.

This book is also available as paperback for $9.99 on Amazon, Barnes& Noble, BAM!, and more online retailers.
The ebook edition is free for subscribers on Scribd and 24Symbols.

Here is again the book description.

It was 10 a.m. when undercover agent Amelia Jennings arrived at the law firm Goldberg & Associates for a job interview. Her mission was to investigate a series of murders involving some well-known lawyers in the City. Her target, an elusive hired killer who had been of interest to the police for months.
But her plan is doomed to fall apart before it even starts.
In less than twenty-four hours Amelia will be the prey in a man hunt and her destiny will become entwined with Mike Connor’s.
Their intentions, apparently similar, may prove to be opposite, but the affinity binding them goes beyond what they think they know about each other.

Don’t miss this action-packed British thriller!

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The fibre that nailed the murderer

There is nothing like that. I am referring to the title of this article. Despite what happens in fiction, where often the resolution of a case depends on the discovery of a fibre, typically a single and isolated one, found at the scene and on the victim (it often happens to Sara Sidle from “CSI”; see photo), in reality such a fibre would serve to demonstrate just nothing at all.
It’s clear that certain materials release tiny fibres, which, if desired, can be compared, for example, with the clothes of a suspect or with some other textile object that belongs to the latter.

Let’s completely leave out the usual imaginary databases, like the one, in one of the latest episodes of “Bones” I recently watched, that linked a synthetic fibre to the mat of a luxurious car, which, as usual, was a limited series, allowing for confirmation of the suspect. However, even assuming that the database exists (I don’t believe so), I have strong doubts that a particular fibre is only used for the mat of a car model (we know they do them all in China, often in the same factory from which those for the cheapest small cars come).
Instead, let’s get back to the case where there’s already a suspect and you can make a comparison. But even if this comparison is positive, what would it demonstrate? Nothing.
Identical fibres are found in very different materials, moreover our fibre could be there because of an innocent contamination preceding the murder or because it was transferred to the victim after a previous contact with someone totally unconnected with the facts.
For this reason, fibres are only supporting evidence that therefore doesn’t add certainty.

This applies also for hair. In this case a comparison may be more useful, as it helps to narrow the field. If a long blond hair is wrapped on the murder weapon, for instance, and the suspect has long blond hair of the same colour and similar characteristics (such as size or the fact that the colour is or isn’t natural), there is a certain probability that it belongs to that person, but probability is not certainty and this makes it just supporting evidence.
The real breakthrough would be achieved if the hair in question still had the hair bulb from where you can collect and then analyse DNA. If there weren’t a good reason, independent from the murder, able to explain the presence of the hair on the weapon, the suspect would be in big trouble.

Another kind of evidence that can be found at the scene is a shoe print, maybe a bloody one. If it’s different from that of the victim, almost certainly that shoe print belongs to the killer or other person who was with him at the time of the murder.
The shoe print can allow criminologists to trace back to the shoe size and, if it shows a particular design, even the brand (especially if that famous database of shoe soles existed!). Once again it can be very useful for a comparison. The problem remains that, if it isn’t from unique handmade shoes (quite rare nowadays), this type of evidence does not give certainty, unless you find a specific correspondence concerning the wear of the sole, due to the unique way that each of us has to walk and wear out some of its areas. In this case, the time factor becomes crucial, because the wear and tear continue, if the murderer keeps on wearing those shoes. You have to make the comparison within days, at most a few weeks, otherwise you won’t find any matches.

Like shoe prints, there are other types of characteristic signs. Let’s consider a screwdriver used to force a window. It certainly leaves a mark on the frame, which corresponds to its shape. If the screwdriver isn’t new, it’s become worn, then the mark it leaves behind is unique. As for the shoes, and for the same reason, the comparison, however, must be done in the shortest time possible.

What if the screwdriver was the murder weapon?
Certainly it left a mark on the body of the victim, maybe not as distinguishable as on the frame, unless it has affected a bone. Finding a similar weapon at the suspect’s house and detecting traces of blood on it (which, as we all know, is very difficult to remove, so much to stay there even if you don’t see it with your naked eye) could be an overwhelming proof. Even more if there are his fingerprints on it and he doesn’t have an alibi for the time of the crime. Unless someone has decided to frame him, using his screwdriver, which happens more often in fiction than in reality.

To discover the murder weapon we have often seen criminologists in the TV series get to pierce gelatine men or carcasses of animals with objects found in the house of the suspect. Usually this wasteful practice leads nowhere, except the rare case that the suspect was framed.
The real culprit, of course, gets rid of the crime weapon!
Even more expensive is the practice of raging on surrogates with random objects that the protagonists of CSI simply place on a table and try one by one. The aim is at least to understand which weapon they must look for. The possibility of catching the right one among an almost infinite number of objects that tear the meat in a similar manner is close to zero. Well, in this case, instead, immediately a strange tool comes up (what luck!) that perfectly corresponds to the shape of the wound. Usually, when it happens, it provides valuable information, since a suspect uses something like this for work or hobbies.

And then there are the famous traumas from a blunt object.
The victim was hit in the head by an object that might be a hammer, a mace, a lamp, a trophy or something. The impact caused a peri-mortem trauma (sometimes not immediately visible, but it appears in the form of haematoma after the body is kept in the freezer for a few hours) and maybe left an evident mark on the skull bones.
And so the criminologists, with great fun, put on their overalls and goggles (that outfit that they do not use at the crime scene; see photo from “CSI: NY”) and begin to hit the poor dummies, until they find the right object.
The mechanism is identical to the case of the screwdriver: if the weapon is found at the suspect’s home, someone has framed him; if it isn’t found, however, they will be able to locate it by taking chances amongst thousands of possibilities, shamelessly wasting puppets, gelatine and pig carcasses, and from there they’ll unveil the unthinkable culprit that uses the same type of tool to make some innocent do-it-yourself. Then, by analysing his toolbox, they will find a bar with the same profile, which will be bloody or recently cleaned with bleach (unlike other tools that are filthy).

I could go on like this forever telling you about all these proofs that are the daily bread of criminologists in fiction and whose discovery is, consequently, the basis of the plots of crime stories focused on forensic science.
As an author I use several of them as well, especially since I know that’s what the reader would expect. And then, let’s face it, it’s fun to use them! But I prefer to highlight how their usefulness is limited, often exploiting them as elements that support the investigation process made of intuition and imagination, or that exclude certain scenarios. This is because this evidence is often most useful to exclude than to confirm.

For instance, in “Syndrome”, an interesting element when analysing the scene of two murders is the total absence of shoe prints in a nearly immaculate flat, where a dirty corpse lies whose soles have some soil. This finding brings Detective Shaw and his team to conclude that the murderer has deleted these prints or, even better, that the victim has never walked on that floor, where he was just dumped, therefore that isn’t the primary scene of the crime.

In “The Mentor”, instead, I exploit the case of a haematoma that appears later (because it isn’t visible on the corpse immediately after death) and reveals that the victim was pushed with a shoe whose pointed profile reminds the footwear of a woman. This leads investigators to speculate that a woman is the killer (or the killer’s accomplice) and pushes Detective Leroux to ask certain questions to an eyewitness, who maybe saw someone leaving the crime scene.

The beauty of it is that I didn’t learn much of this by reading treatises on forensic science, but reading the novels by Patricia Cornwell, watching “CSI”, “Bones”, “NCIS”, “Body of Proof” and many others. All of which, taking a cue from science to create stories, in addition to entertain people (as they are entertainment tools), somehow enrich the latter, leaving them with a little more knowledge and, at the same time, with a certain curiosity to learn more.

“The Mentor” at $1.99 in USA and Canada until 31 October

Mina was there when they killed her family.
She was just seven, but she saw their faces. And she remembers them. She can’t forget.
Now the time has come to kill them all.

In 1994 Eric Shaw found little Mina under her parents’ bed.
Her mother was on that bed, her throat cut. Her father was tied to a chair in the living room, dead, all his fingers missing. Her brother’s corpse was lying on the floor in the corridor.

Twenty years later he suspects Mina could be a serial killer, but he can’t believe it’s true. He doesn’t want it to be true.
What is he supposed to do now?

Find it out by reading “The Mentor”:

If you are a US or Canadian resident, you can now get your copy of the ebook edition of “The Mentor” for $1.99 on Amazon throughout October and learn more about Detective Shaw and his pupil.

The Mentor” is also available in paperback and as audiobook on all major online retailers. And if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read it for free!

Patricia Cornwell: the queen of crime thriller

Photo from
I was no more than eighteen years old when I happened to read my first book by Patricia Cornwell and it was in English (as you know, I’m Italian). It was “Body of Evidence” and I liked it so much that I decided to continue with “Postmortem”. Only then I realized that not only they were connected, but I had read them in the wrong order! A mistake that I no longer repeated and I invite any reader who wishes to get closer to the works of this author not to commit it, as well.

Surely the most famous series by Cornwell, which today includes twenty-five novels (including the upcoming new release, “Chaos”), is the one whose main character is a medical examiner called Kay Scarpetta. A character of Italian origin that seems to be inspired by a real person, Dr. Marcella Farinelli Fierro, with whom Cornwell worked back in the 80s. Reality and fiction mingle in her novels, in which she narrates with wealth of detail about the work of a medical examiner and brings to the fore the subject of forensic science, so much that it seems that they had a significant influence in many TV series on this topic, such as CSI.

Forensic science is definitely an essential element in this series of novels. The author draws liberally from her work experience at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia. She isn’t a doctor, but worked as a computer analyst, which has undoubtedly contributed to the creation of another character, Lucy Farinelli, Scarpetta’s niece.
In the early books Lucy is a girl with great computer skills, but then we see her grow and become a complex and problematic character. In fact, although the novels in this series are within the so-called crime fiction, what really matters, and the reason why they must be read in the right order, is not the individual criminal case narrated in each book, but the subplots following Kay Scarpetta, Lucy, Pete Marino, and all other recurring characters. In the end the villain of the moment, often a serial killer, is a tool to build dark atmospheres, show the investigation that starts from the corpse of the victim and other physical evidence, but it is just one of the elements of conflict in the books.
Not surprisingly, one thing I noticed since the first reading, is that the resolution, which often leads to the death of the villain, occurs quickly, within a couple of paragraphs, so that every time I find myself going back and re-read them, because I’ve almost missed it!

Yet I continue to read her books, because she always finds a different way of surprising me. You may be wondering how it is possible for an author to continue to narrate about the same characters for twenty-five books, managing to make their vicissitudes interesting.
Cornwell somehow succeeds it, often by means of experiencing new ways to narrate a story. Some of her books are written in first person, others in third person, some in the present tense, others in past tense. In the last one I read, “Port Mortuary” (I have almost all her books, but I like to read them some years after the publication; novels do not expire!), she manages to develop a story in first person within about twenty-four hours. Scarpetta wasn’t present during the murder, of course, and is only partly involved in the investigations, but through a series of gimmicks the author still manages to make the novel compelling and ensure that the case touches closely the main characters, becoming one thing with the subplots.
Thanks to this ability her books are crime thrillers and not mysteries or detective stories.

But Cornwell has not only written the Scarpetta series. This is only her most famous series, which she continues to develop due to its success.
She tried to write something different and, as often happens, her attempt wasn’t appreciated by many of her fans (especially those that fall under the uninteresting category of readers who love to stick to a certain type of readings).

Another series of hers including only three books (“Hornet’s Nests”, “Southern Cross”, and “Isle of Dogs”) is the one with Judy Hammer and Andy Brazil. In the third book you find out that it is set in the same reality of the Scarpetta series (Scarpetta appears in a brief cameo), but it has nothing to do with the stories of the latter.
We have always to do with crimes, but the tone is much lighter, ironic. While reading you often find yourself laughing. The author experiments by showing scenes even from the point of view of animals (in “Isle of Dogs” there is a fabulous scene from the point of view of a crab!) and she dwells upon narrating interesting stories about the locals. The first book in this series also became a TV movie with Virginia Madsen in 2012.

Then there is the Win Garano series, consisting of two short novels (“At Risk” and “The Front”), which features an African-American detective, but also with Italian origins. The tones are darker, but the story runs at high speed and has the characteristic of being narrated in third person and present tense, almost like a screenplay. And coincidentally both novels have been translated into TV movies starring Daniel Sunjata and Andie MacDowell (in both Cornwell herself appeared in the role of a waitress), although the story has some differences and the ending is different.

Instead I’ve never read any of her non-fiction works, such as the one about Jack The Ripper, because they don’t interest me very much or at all (especially the book about Scarpetta’s recipes!).
However, I can safely say that Patricia Cornwell is one of my favourite authors, and especially one of the few of whom I always buy the printed edition. I’m fascinated by her way of writing, so much that for some time now I have decided not to purchase the editions in Italian (also because the translation quality in the latest ones I had read had drastically decreased) and read her books in the original language. However, being an admirer, both as a reader and as a writer of crime thrillers (like the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy, in which I borrowed the expedient used in “Isle of Dogs” of putting a blog inside the novel), I hope she can break free (her publisher permitting) from the clutches of Scarpetta (shouldn’t she retire sooner or later?) and show us soon her great skills with new stories and new characters.

The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson

***** Terrifying, distressing, brilliant

This review will be short. This is how they come out when I like a book so much that I couldn’t find any fault in it and at the same time when a few masterfully orchestrated elements are what makes it a good book. This is the case of this fairly short novel by Matheson. It narrates the unusual story of a man who, because of a radioactive cloud, has developed a disease that make him shrink of one inch a day.
The story unfolds on two parallel timelines. One narrated by the now tiny protagonist, locked in the basement of his house, where he must daily fight to get food and survive the ambush of a huge spider (from his point of view). In the second, however, the character recounts the events that led him from being a normal man to be so small that he cannot get out of the basement.
While reading, the identification with the main character is total. The reader feels his shame while getting smaller, as well as his terror as he tries to survive in the hostile environment of the basement that gets bigger every day. On the one hand, you are curious to know why he ended up down there and apparently nobody cares; on the other, you want to find out what will happen the day when his height should be reduced to zero. And the author plays well his cards, increasing the tension at maximum and then switching to the other timeline, and then repeating the same crescendo.
And so, as you go ahead with the reading, you never know what could happen in the next page, and the ending itself, wonderful and brilliant in its simplicity, leaves you speechless.
I would add that, although it is a book from a few decades ago, it seems almost contemporary. I didn’t notice, in the language or in the way that the narrative develops, any particular ingenuity or other aspect that reminded me of its age. But that doesn’t surprise me that much, because up to now it has almost always been the case with Matheson’s novels.

The Shrinking Man on Amazon.

Lucky criminologists and maladroit criminals

One of the most common ways to find out the culprit of a crime, in fiction, is to let a tiny physical evidence be found on them, or maybe their car, thus linking them undoubtedly to the scene or even the victim; or to find (always unique and very small) evidence on the scene or the victim that is certainty linked to a suspect.
It seems easy to detect such evidence (Abby Sciuto from “NCIS”, in the photo, does it all the time) and, when it happens, this discovery is almost overwhelming, often pushing the suspect to confess.

A typical example is some paint found on a car forced off the road by another vehicle. It is quite common that, following a violent impact, some paint is transferred from one car to another; indeed it almost always happens. Think about all the times you found a little gift on the bumper of your car by someone who leaned to it while parking or who made a mistake while exiting from a parking space.
But is it really possible to trace back the model and manufacturing year of the car? Generally not, because the same widespread paints are used in different models, often different brands, in different periods, and even if the type of paint is determined (besides the colour, I mean), this doesn’t narrow too much the search field. The only exception occurs when you have to do with some very rare paint used in an equally rare vehicle, for example, a limited series or a classic car with the original paint. Usually here a sci-fi database comes out like magic, which in five minutes at most starting from a paint chip pulls out the photo of the car that, incidentally, is so rare that very few people in the whole town (and we often talk about big towns or even cities, like New York) have one, including a potential suspect that shows another small link with the victim.
There you have it: a tenuous link with the victim plus the same paint of their car, and the suspect collapses.
Yes, I killed her!

Sometimes I wonder why these criminals are so maladroit or unfortunate enough to use rare vehicles to carry out their misdeeds.
This so unusual that (almost) never occurs in the real world. Usually even being able to go back to the colour and perhaps the brand of the car is just one more element to substantiate the suspicions about a specific person, but doesn’t add any certainty.
But there is a particular situation where the paint can be important and become an irrefutable proof: when a car has been repainted several times and the same stratification is found as physical evidence.
But a doubt always remains. Are we sure that the transfer took place precisely during the crime and not earlier? Most times we are not.
This is the problem that plagues all kinds of residues, whether it’s paint, glass, dirt, and even the one coming from a gunshot: we cannot establish the precise moment when it settled.

Let’s think about glass. The murderer broke a window to enter the house of the victim. The suspect has a tiny fragment of glass on them. Is it the culprit? Assuming also that the glass is of the same type, it could also be someone who has been on the scene after the crime, or maybe who visited a neighbour of the victim, in the same building, who has an identical glass, which is broken.
Here, as for the paint, applies the case of very rare types of material, but that would be a stroke of luck.

What about the soil? Well, in TV series such as “CSI” it isn’t unusual that from micro-grains of soil found under the soles or on the clothing of a victim they come to find out exactly the primary scene of the crime. There is always some pollen from an exotic plant that is grown only in one place within hundreds or thousands of kilometres, where, despite a size of several hectares, our investigators discover more physical evidence pointing to the culprit. Obviously there is a special database with all pollens: you just have to do a banal search by image. Never once it happens that they find a very common soil or that the place of origin is so broad to be a dead end or that it is then found out that the soil ended up on the victim as a result of a chain of common contamination that leads to absolutely no result.

And then there are gunshot residues.
When firing, a cloud of residues is ejected by the weapon, containing elements such as antimony, barium, and lead, with a composition that is typically specific of a certain weapon with a certain type of bullets.
If a person was killed with a certain weapon, which was found, and the same gunpowder residue produced by it is detected on the hand of the suspect, it is very likely that he/she pulled the trigger.
What if they have used a pair of gloves? Well, residues may still have ended up on their clothes, only that in this case there would be no certainty that they shot. The suspect may also have been in the vicinity, while someone else was shooting, or even got into contact with the murderer at a later time and have nothing to do with the crime. On second thought, if they shook hands with the murderer shortly after the shot, they could have the same gunpowder residue, even if they aren’t the culprit. It gets even more complicated, if we’re dealing with people who use weapons and are routinely subjected to multiple contaminants from gunshot residues.

In short, all the physical evidence that is used very often in fiction (and we love it) to nail the culprit, in reality, most of the time are totally or nearly useless.
But in fiction we like to have fun and authors of crime fiction like me are in their element when using this. For example, I mentioned gunshot residue in the second chapter of “The Mentor”, in which Detective Shaw leads a man suspected of being a killer for hire to confess a murder, after having framed him with false fingerprints on the murder weapon. The suspect, a certain Damien Johnson, is led to think that he cannot prove his innocence (there is also the fact that he isn’t innocent), because, although during the crime he was wearing gloves and so couldn’t possibly leave fingerprints, he has recently used a weapon during his job as security guard and then the gunpowder residue along with the false evidence nails him. To refute it he should say that he used a pair of gloves, but that would still be a confession. Eric knows that the two residues may not match, but Johnson, who is aware to be guilty, is so resented about being framed that he doesn’t even think about it (perhaps he even doesn’t know that the residues may have different compositions: indeed he isn’t a criminologist!) and he decides to negotiate a plea bargain. The story then quickly goes on, the character is put aside and the reader doesn’t think about it anymore.

Similarly no one is scandalised if in “Bones”, when they examine the skeleton of a victim (who knows why, anyway, they always decide to strip the flesh from the victims to find out how they died, even from all those that are found whole, while in other series a normal autopsy is more than enough), they always find only a tiny trace embedded in a bone (of course) from which a series of clues comes out leading to the killer. If we were to reflect on each decision made by the characters, we would soon realise that they could have made many different ones, which would take them completely off the track. What else could I say? They must be geniuses (and Temperance Brennan constantly emphasises that), but on second thought, it seems that they are just very lucky!

Could it be the reason why, in fiction, the cases are solved in a day, but often in the real world after years of investigation, even when they seem to be solved, you are never sure you have found the real culprit?
Yes, even in this case we cannot deny it: although reality often exceeds imagination, fiction is much more fun and, above all, reassuring.

“The Mentor” at €0.99 on Amazon in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy until 9/30

What if someone you love were a serial killer?

Detective Eric Shaw has to answer to this question, when he starts suspecting a person he knows well and love may be the serial killer whose murders, the Black Death Killings, he’s currently investigating.
What will he do when he discovers he is right?

Find it out by reading “The Mentor”:

And if you live in one of these European countries (Germany, France, Spain, and Italy), you can now get your copy of the ebook edition of “The Mentor” at only €0.99 throughout September and learn more about Detective Shaw and his pupil.

The Mentor” is also available in paperback and as audiobook on all major online retailers. And if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read it for free!

Interview with Anna Persson from “Red Desert” on The Protagonist Speaks

On 20 July 2016, the same date of the 40th anniversary of Viking 1 landing on Mars, Anna Persson, the main character in my “Red Desert” series set on the Red Planet, appeared in an interview of The Protagonist Speaks, a blog by Assaph Mehr.

As you can imagine, his blog collects very special interviews with characters from fiction books, which are a nice and quite original way to meet their stories and maybe be appealed into reading them.
Anna had actually given the original interview in Italian on a website called Kuiper Belt and it was translated, thanks to the help of Eric Klein (another fellow author), into English, thus giving you the chance to read it.

I must inform you that the interview was made after the end of the series, so it can include some spoilers. It also casts light on the open ending of the series and reveals some interesting background.
So Anna escapes from her confinement on Twitter and takes a seat in front of her interviewer to tell us something more about her, Hassan, her family, her present, letting us prefigure something about her future.

And if you haven’t already read the series (4 books), you can try the first book, “Red Desert - Point of No Return”, starting from $0.99 (ebook) on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Nook UK, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, Smashwords, Oyster, Scribd, 24Symbols, and Tolino.
It is also available as paperback starting from $5.99 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace Store, and more online book retailers.

A Cry in the Night - Mary Higgins Clark

** Naive cliché

I should say that the review contains some spoilers, but in fact the plot is so obvious that I don’t think it’s necessary.
Let’s start with the few positive aspects of this novel.
The prose is definitely beautiful and clean. The author is very good in managing the point of view of the protagonist and overall the text compels you to a quick read, though I must confess that I was in a hurry to finish it just to get rid of it as soon as possible.
But despite the excellent technical skills, the story is just a naive cliché.
The useless prologue makes it clear immediately how the story will be developed and how it will end: it anticipates the child’s death (which then actually occurs at about 80% of the novel), shows that she is alone and that there is something strange regarding her husband.
Everything else is clarified in the first chapters.
Jenny, the main character, is absolutely non-credible. Whenever does it happen that a single mother, divorced, so experienced, in New York (not in the smallest village), immediately trusts the first guy who shows interest on her? Indeed, she should doubt this sudden interest. He proposes to her after a week! Any woman would run like hell and someone like her, who has two daughters, faster than any other. This lack of credibility makes her annoying because of her excessive stupidity, weakness, and total lack of temper.
The fact that the story is set in the 80s can justify the plot being overworn (at the time it wasn’t so overworn), but not its poor development and two-dimensional characters.
He looks sinister since the beginning. After reading the prologue, it is natural to question him immediately, all the more because of his way of being intrusive and overbearing with a woman he just met and of whom he is interested because she is almost identical to his dead mother, another reason why any sane person would immediately run away from him.
The author attempts to confuse the facts and make you doubt the protagonist fail miserably. Not once she has managed to divert me from the conviction, gained from the first moment I met Erich in the first chapter, that there was something wrong with him, that he was the cause of everything. The late inclusion of elements of doubt seems like clutching at straws and the tendency of the protagonist to give credit to them makes her appear even more stupid and weak.
The ending is predictable. How do you think a story like this would end? Come on!
The veiled (but not too much) reference to Psycho must have made Hitchcock turn in his grave.
It was the first time I read a book by Higgins Clark and, no doubt, it will be the last.

A Cry in the Night on Amazon.