By Jesse KornbluthFounder, HeadButler.com"Sometimes the dead live on in your dreams."A nice start to the first suspense novel I've opened in years.I pressed on.It turns out that Roy Valois is dreaming of Delia. He reaches out to touch her hair. Ooops. It's Jen in his bed, and, first thing in the morning, she has news: She's been offered a job running the ski school in Keystone. That's in Colorado. Right now, they're living in Vermont. A significant distance. Especially because they've been dating for two years -- and marriage is very much on his mind. Roy calls and reserves a table at the town's best restaurant for dinner a few days later. This won't be like the last time, in the tiny Washington apartment, when he just blurted out his proposal to Delia.I look up. I've read two-and-a-half pages in less than a minute, and I already know a great deal.In another paragraph I know more. Roy lives in a barn he bought with Delia. He's a sculptor, working in large slabs of metal. Delia was an economist at the Hobbes Institute, a think tank that focuses on Third World problems.But enough of the past. Roy's working on a masterpiece that he's named after his late wife. (She died, Peter Abrahams tells us almost as an aside, 15 years ago, in a helicopter crash off Nicaragua on a trip to convince farmers to plant pineapples.) He also plays amateur hockey. And is soon reminded of a famous goal he scored in college.
Will that glorious undergraduate moment be mentioned in his New York Times obituary -- or will it be art art art? Obits of the famous generally are written years, even decades, before the actual death; a local kid volunteers to hack into the newspaper's files. He finds Roy's obit: no mention of the hockey goal. But there is an incorrect description of Delia. According to the Times, she was employed by the United Nations, not the Hobbes Institute. Roy's annoyed by that mistake. So he calls the Times reporter and ...
And now an hour has gone by and I've read a third of the book. This doesn't happen when I'm reading James Salter. Another 90 minutes and I'm done. The sun is now angled low, the afternoon has cooled. But I've read an exciting book and I'm red hot.
Who is Peter Abrahams? Stephen King's favorite suspense writer. Well, lucky me: I started at the top. I check out his Web site, where he lists his literary influences:
Nabokov is one of my favorites. The sheer brilliance! He makes it look so easy ... Closer to my own field, I've been influenced by Graham Greene ...
Greene, I'd expect. But Nabokov? To love "Pale Fire" and then write suspense thrillers?
I'm not going to argue. Peter Abrahams has written 18 novels so far. A cursory scan of the reviews suggests they're uniformly superior. I have my work -- correction: my pleasure -- cut out for me.
Click here to buy Nerve Damage now. Jesse Kornbluth is a New York-based journalist and founder of Head Butler.com, a cultural concierge site and free daily e-mail featuring information on new and classic books, movies and music.Did you know that seeing a suspense-filled movie can help a couple on a date grow closer? Find out how else to woo your date.Find out which books other ThirdAgers are reading. Join our book club. We'll help you stay on top of the latest research relevant to your health. Sign up for our Health & Wellness Newsletter.