People often ask me to name my favorite mystery writers. Most mystery fans have heard of the top three or so that of those I name. But the name of Thomas H. Cook always results in a blank stare. Sometime I hope to meet someone who shares my opinion that Cook is one of the best. Until then, I will continue to devour his books, talk them up to anyone who will listen, and wonder why he’s not at the top of the best seller list.
His latest, Sandrine’s Case, is simply amazing. When Sandrine Madison was found dead at home, it appeared at first to be a suicide. But as the cops looked deeper, they found too many inconsistencies. Before long, they charged her husband, Samuel, with her murder.
Sam and Sandrine were both professors at Coburn College, a school that Sam feels is filled with “eternally mediocre students.” Sandrine had been such a beautiful, free spirit when they first met, that the scholarly Sam always wondered why she’d married him. As time went on, they became more entrenched in life in Coburn. But their lives became more parallel than unified, and Sam, in particular, was filled with disappointment and cynicism at the way life had turned out.
The murder trial exposes Sam’s secrets, but through witnesses, he learns that Sandrine had secrets of her own. The evidence that comes out also reminds him of what he had loved in Sandrine back when they were young, and who they both had once been.
I am always torn as to whether I am most in awe of Cook’s talent at plotting or how thoroughly he develops his unforgettable characters. Or maybe it’s his beautiful writing, or his settings. I think, actually, that all of the above—the whole package.
Simply put, Thomas H. Cook is brilliant.