(My original plan was to repost all my previous Andrew Klavan reviews before addressing Empire of Lies, but I got carried away. So I’m picking up the reposts now. This is second in the series, and like the previous repost, comes from May 2006.)
Oh, by the way, I forgot yesterday the first Andrew Klavan novel I read (actually it was written under the Keith Peterson pseudonym)–The Scarred Man. This is a psychological thriller with one of the best hooks I’ve ever read.
I love a great “book hook.” Perhaps my favorite is the beginning of The Man Who Wasn’t There by Roderick MacLeish (a much underappreciated novelist). That book (as I recall–I don’t have a copy) began with the main character, who was something of a celebrity, being recognized by a stranger sitting beside him on a plane. Instead of admitting to his identity, he played a trick he liked to play in such situations, claiming to be his own (non-existent) non-famous twin, whose story he made up on the spot.
The next morning he got up and read in the paper that this imaginary twin brother had been killed in a plane crash.
That’s a great book hook.
But the hook in The Scarred Man is almost as good.
Michael North is a young New York reporter who accepts an invitation to spend Christmas in Connecticut with his boss. There he meets the boss’s daughter, Susannah, and falls hopelessly in love in about a nanosecond.
To entertain themselves, the party members agree to tell ghost stories (I thought of you here, Phil). Michael makes up a story on the spur of the moment, telling a tale of a murderous, undead psychopath with a scar down the center of his face.
Susannah goes hysterical, shouting “Stop it! What are you trying to do to me!” She flees back to school before he can discuss it with her.
Later, when he drives up to Susannah’s college to talk to her, he pulls into the entrance and sees, in his headlights–the scarred man. When he finds Susannah, she tells him she’s been having nightmares about this man all her life.
The great thing is, this isn’t a supernatural novel.