The sad business of redemption

JulianJulian Wells was a writer of true-crime books, books that laid bare the atrocities that man can commit, that took an unflinching look at evil.  But why, with all his success and security, did Julian make his own life so difficult?  Why did he spend so much time apart from friends and from family? And why did he choose to kill himself?

That final question is the one which most troubles Julian’s best friend, Philip Anders, in Thomas H. Cook’s The Crime of Julian Wells.   Close since childhood, Julian is like a second son to Philip’s father, a state department functionary who dreamed at one time of being a spy.

Anders thinks that the answer may be found in the book that Julian was researching at the time of his death, which connects to an episode in their shared past in which a young Argentinian woman – their guide – disappeared.   As he works to unravel the mystery of Julian’s suicide, Anders finds that he did not know his friend as well as he thought he did, and that many people are not what they seem.   Through his discovery of the true Julian, Anders also finds himself.  The resolution is tinged with irony and sorrow, but also hope.

Thomas H. Cook is a author with many books to his name, an Edgar recipient for The Chatham School Affair, and reliably entertaining and thought-provoking.  Another excellent read is his The Last Talk with Lola Faye (my review here), a book which also explores the interpersonal underpinnings of crime.

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