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Red Cat: A John March Novel (John March Mysteries)by Peter Spiegelman
Synopses & Reviews
Black Maps ("A stunner, a great debut roaring out of the gate" — Newsday)... Death's Little Helpers ("Breaks new ground in detective fiction" — the Washington Post)... And now Red Cat, the third riveting installment in Peter Spiegelman's thrilling series of novels featuring the brooding New York City private investigator John March.
With a troubled past and a job that attracts too much attention from the law, March has always been the black sheep of his staid merchant-banking family. Which makes the identity of his latest client all the more surprising: his smug older brother David.
David is desperate and deeply scared, and with good reason: a woman he met on the Internet, and then for several torrid sexual encounters, is stalking him. David knows her only as Wren, but she seems to know everything about him — and she's threatening to tell all to his wife and his colleagues. His marriage, his career, and his reputation at stake, David wants John to find this woman and warn her off. Reeling from these revelations, John begins the search for Wren, and what he discovers both alarms and fascinates him. Part actress, part playwright, part performance-artist and noir pornographer, Wren is a powerfully compelling mystery — though no more so, John discovers, than his own brother.
But when a body surfaces in the East River, March suddenly finds he's no longer searching for a stalker. Now he's hunting a killer — and following a trail that leads ever closer to David's door...
"We expect to find in good thrillers such elements as realism, intelligence, suspense and tough-mindedness, but we less often encounter much sex or sophistication. Yes, glamorous women grace the lives of most cops and private eyes — the brave deserve the fair — but it's mostly idealized romance, and the sex is usually offstage and not the down and dirty variety that enlivens real life. As for sophistication,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) most crime fighters (like, alas, their creators) are scruffy, down-at-the-heels types, given to cheap whiskey and dubious women, not the kind of men who ponder the relative merits of, say, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound or of Chateau Margaux and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Peter Spiegelman, whose 'Red Cat' is sexy and sophisticated as well as endearingly nasty, is said to have spent 'nearly twenty years in the financial-services and software industries.' I take that to mean he made a bundle and then decided to pursue the pleasures of fiction. At the very least, he knows the boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, fashionable galleries and alarmingly rich, thin women who adorn Manhattan's most expensive precincts. The same can be said of his protagonist, John March, whose family owns a 'merchant bank' but who became a cop. After a serial killer murdered his wife, March endured 'a hurricane of alcohol and drugs' and then set up shop as a private investigator. At the start of this third John March novel, the cop is confronted with an unexpected client: his brother David, an executive in the family bank. The brothers have loathed each other since childhood, but now David urgently needs help. He answered an online personals ad that began: 'Slim, leggy redhead, twenties, healthy, tasteful, and discreet, seeks professional man 35-55 for casual meeting.' David spent several memorable afternoons with the woman, who called herself Wren, but then she began threatening to tell all to his wife and boss. David, a control freak who's lost control, wants his brother to make this crazy woman go away. John learns that Wren is an actress, writer and maker of videos. Worse, he learns that when she was cavorting with David — and with numerous other men — she was secretly filming the action. In bed, the men were in charge, free to act out their fantasies. 'Will it hurt?' she asked one of them. 'It won't hurt me a bit, baby,' the crude fellow replied. But that is only the first act of these dramas. Wren's threats force the men to come to her in supplication, desperate to save their marriages and careers. Suddenly, power has shifted. Women and men may react to these scenes differently, but few would deny that they are edgy and electric. It's the war of the sexes with the gloves off, and unsurprisingly it ends in murder. After that, March is scrambling to keep David and his sister-in-law Stephanie from being charged, since the cops and prosecutors see this ugly mix of sex, money and homicide as a potential cable-news bonanza that could make their careers. March's search for the killer keeps us guessing, but what distinguishes the novel is the level of the writing and Spiegelman's portraits of people whom he may not like but always seems to understand. March's high-maintenance girlfriend, Clare, is first seen emerging from his shower and declaring, 'Your water pressure is great, but you need some new shampoo. I used that green crap in seventh grade, and even then it smelled like funeral flowers.' (In my experience, lines like that are more often overheard than invented.) Clare has a rich and errant husband, and at one point Spiegelman has her tell why she's still with him. He does the same for Stephanie, who explains why she's stayed with the arrogant and faithless David: 'When you look back on it — when you look at it all together — it seems crazy, I know. Crazy to stay. But it didn't happen all together. It was a gradual process, like erosion.' Then: 'The unfiltered light fell on Stephanie's face and turned it to a mask, taut, Kabuki white, and brittle. Only her will, and maybe the Ativan, kept it from crumbling.' Of course, as David's wife, she lives in an apartment where the 'views were of the park, a wedge of the Guggenheim, and blue, blue skies.' Both these rich, difficult women, and also a tough young ex-convict who was Wren's lover, at first seem decidedly unattractive, but the author leads us to understand and even like them. They're subtle and pleasing characterizations. At times Spiegelman's prose recalls Raymond Chandler's. 'A jaundiced sunset was seeping through the clouds as I drove into Tarrytown, and it tinted the Hudson in the colors of a fading bruise.' 'The bare ceiling bulb cast a light like dirty water.' 'She smiled at me and ran a hand through her hair, which rippled like a silk sheet.' And a final scene echoes — surely not by accident — an even better writer. When we last glimpse the troubled David and Stephanie, just before they slip into a limousine, 'She came up beside him, and put a hand on his back. His head inclined toward hers and his arm circled her waist, and they stood together for a moment.' For me, that recalls our last glimpse of Tom and Daisy Buchanan in 'The Great Gatsby,' when they 'retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together.' Spiegelman is no Fitzgerald, but he's a writer with an unusual mix of talents, and 'Red Cat' is one of the most interesting crime novels you're likely to encounter this year." Reviewed by Art Taylor, an assistant professor of English at George Mason University and a contributing editor to Metro Magazine in Raleigh, N.C.Richard Lee Colvin, director of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a former education writer for the Los Angeles TimesDonna Rifkind, who lives in Los Angeles and reviews fiction frequently for The Washington PostCarolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.comPatrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[W]hat distinguishes the novel is the level of the writing....Spiegelman is no Fitzgerald, but he's a writer with an unusual mix of talents, and Red Cat is one of the most interesting crime novels you're likely to encounter this year." The Washington Post
"[A]n impressive series....John March is a worthy heir to the hardboiled detective....Gritty atmosphere and clever plotting enhance a fine addition to the noir tradition." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] satisfying meal for any fan of Manhattan PI novels....
"As John matures, so does Spiegelman. The writing is cleaner, the characters are varied and well drawn, and most of all, the plot is believably complex and full of shocking twists. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Red Cat...is entertaining and fast-paced with the requisite red herrings littering the way to the expected denouement." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"If Peter Spiegelman's story of sibling entanglements and an internet hook-up gone bad didn't yank me right in — which it did — and if his characters weren't vivid and his dialogue pitch-perfect — which they are — I'd still read him for his chisel-sharp prose. In Red Cat Spiegelman reaches a new peak. Don't miss it." S.J. Rozan, author of In This Rain
"Peter Spiegelman is one of the finest PI writers around, and Red Cat is his edgiest and most accomplished work yet. The plot unfolds at breakneck speed, the twists are startling, the climax wrenching, and the writing is flat-out beautiful....It's a story that stays with you, and if you haven't discovered Spiegelman and PI John March yet, you're missing something great." Joseph Finder, author of Killer Instinct
The third riveting installment in Spiegelman's thrilling series of novels features brooding New York City private investigator John March, who must defend his older brother from a woman — now a stalker — he met on the Internet.
Private detective John March comes to the aid of his troubled older brother, David, who is being stalked by a woman known only as Wren, whom he met on the Internet, with whom he enjoyed a few brief but torrid encounters, and who is threatening to reveal everything to his wife and boss, but his search for the enigmatic woman brings him face to face with murder. 35,000 first printing.
About the Author
Peter Spiegelman is the author of Black Maps, which won the 2004 Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel, and Death's Little Helpers; both novels feature private detective and Wall Street refugee John March. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Mr. Spiegelman spent nearly twenty years in the financial services and software industries, and worked with leading banks and brokerages around the world. He lives in Connecticut.
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