Book #105 was The Spire by Richard North Patterson. The back of the book reads:
Both a razor-sharp thriller and a poignant love story, this twisting tale of psychological suspense is Pattersonâ€™s most compelling novel in years
Mark Darrow grew up in a small Ohio town with no real advantages beyond his intelligence and athletic ability. But thanks to the intervention of Lionel Farrâ€”a professor at Caldwell, the local collegeâ€”Darrow became an excellent student and, later, a superb trial lawyer. Now Farr asks his still-youthful protÃ©gÃ© for a life-altering favor. An embezzlement scandal has threatened Caldwellâ€™s very existenceâ€”would Darrow consider becoming its new president?
Darrow accepts, but returning to his alma mater opens old wounds. Sixteen years ago, on the night of his greatest triumph as Caldwellâ€™s star quarterback, he discovered the body of a black female student named Angela Hall at the base of the Spire, the bell tower that dominates the leafy campus. His best friend, Steve Tillman, was charged with Angelaâ€™s murder and ultimately sent to prison for life. But now, even as Darrow begins the daunting task of leading Caldwell, he discovers that the case against his friend left crucial questions unanswered. Despite his new obligationsâ€”and his deepening attachment to Farrâ€™s beautiful though troubled daughterâ€”Darrow begins his own inquiry into the murder. Soon he becomes convinced that Angelaâ€™s killer is still at large, but only when another mysterious death occurs does he understand that his own life is at risk.
I consider RNP one of the masters of the character-driven thriller. Here, he gets away from the politics of his last few books and takes us to a small college campus (a particularly compelling venue for me). Mark Darrow is being called back to the place where he found himself, Caldwell College. The current president is caught up in an embezzlement scandal, and Darrow, now a corporate lawyer, is being asked to take his place.
It’s not exactly a happy reunion. Darrow has had his share of personal tragedy, and returning to campus brings back the memories of an awful murder that his best friend was convicted of. He is supposed to be devoting his time to pulling the college out of its doldrums, but instead he can’t stop himself from trying to prove his friend’s innocence. And along the way, well, he just happens to fall in love with his mentor’s daughter.
I like how RNP gives every character a secret. No one is black and white, even the most minor character. The story does turn out to be a little predictable… I realized who the bad guy was going to be almost immediately, and the final confrontation is a giant clichÃ© that you expect as soon as the location is declared. But all of that doesn’t take away from another winning story.
This book was a review copy.
Julie’s Jewels: The Spire
Page count: 384 | Approximate word count: 105,600