Cover image for A perfect crime
A perfect crime
Abrahams, Peter, 1947-
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, Me. : G.K. Hall, 1999.

Physical Description:
447 pages (large print) ; 24 cm
General Note:
"G.K. Hall large print core series"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Large Print Large Print
X Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

On Order



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Author Notes

Peter Abrahams was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 28, 1947. His works include Lights Out, The Fan, Crying Wolf, and Oblivion. He also writes the Echo Falls Mysteries Series for younger readers. He was the winner of the 2010 Edgar Award, Best Young Adult Mystery for Reality Check. In addition, he writes the Chet and Bernie Mystery Series under the pseudonym Spencer Quinn.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Proper Bostonian Roger Cullingwood thinks the good life is his birthright. He has an IQ of 181, a Harvard pedigree, a tony Beacon Hill home, and a beautiful wife named Francie who buys art for a foundation and plays a mean game of tennis. His Kevlar ego is barely scratched by a year's unemployment and the fact that he and Francie are just going through the motions. But when he learns that Francie is having an affair, he begins to create a calculus for a perfect, and perfectly brutal, crime. Needing to indulge his heroically outsized ego, that calculus inevitably requires the manipulation of a lesser being as his instrument of revenge. This literary thriller has a great deal going for it. The characters are as acutely realized as if painted by a photo-realist--not just Roger and Francie but also Whitey Truax, Roger's stupidly cunning psychopathic tool; Anne Franklin, the lovely but vulnerable wife of Francie's lover; and Joe Savard, a rural New Hampshire police chief who sculpts with a chainsaw. The plotting, and the plot twists, are complex and compelling. The dialogue is sharp and almost flawless, exposing facets of character without need for narrative that might slow the pace. And it's satisfying: there's sex and violence, but there's also a subtle sense of the mathematical certainty to the denouement. --Thomas Gaughan

Publisher's Weekly Review

A Boston woman's ill-advised affair with a talk-show host leads to murder and mayhem in this initially absorbing but somewhat contrived thriller from the author of The Fan and Lights Out. Art critic Francie Cullingwood is the beautiful, sophisticated and dissatisfied protagonist who seeks sexual satisfaction outside her stale marriage. Her lover is Ned DeMarco, a handsome, touchy-feely psychiatrist who hosts a radio show for the emotionally forlorn. Their passionate arrangement begins to unravel when Roger, Francie's brilliant but angry husband (a Harvard summa who's been fired from his job as a securities analyst), suspects her adultery and hires a hit man, Whitey Truax, to exact revenge on his spouse. Truax, it turns out, is a serial killer with a very short fuse. The tension rises as Abrahams cuts between the plot participants: Ned's wife, Anne, becomes Francie's tennis partner, making Francie aware of the damage the affair is causing, while Ned desperately clings to their involvement and Roger plots his bizarre campaign of retribution. The initial showdown between Whitey and his potential victims takes place at the adulterous couple's love nest, a New Hampshire cottage that quickly becomes a house of horrors when Whitey suspects Roger of double-crossing him, and runs amok on a killing spree that eventually leads back to Boston. Abrahams does his best work in a series of well-crafted early scenes that effectively convey the different levels of emotional duplicity among the protagonists, but the actual murders are strictly formulaic. While Francie, Ned and Anne are well-drawn, Abrahams's portrayals of both Roger and his minion lack dimension; they are both plot devices whose ludicrous partnership never carries the ring of credibility. Even so, as he explores Francie's emotional terrain in the wake of tragedy, Abrahams will keep readers very much engaged. Agent, Molly Friedrich; 100,000 first printing. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The discovery of an adulterous affair leads a brilliant but unstable man to plot the perfect murder. Francie and Ned, both married to others, meet illicitly at a cabin in the New Hampshire woods. Francie decides to end the affair when she discovers that her new tennis partner is Ned's wife, who suspects Ned of being unfaithful but is unaware of Francie's involvement. Francie's husband, Roger, suspects, too‘and plots a deadly trap for the lovers at their remote hideaway. Edgar-nominee Abrahams (The Fan, LJ 2/1/95) weaves a tight web of deception and intrigue involving the two couples, a sheriff whose wife was brutally murdered years ago, and a desperate ex-con who becomes Roger's pawn in his murderous game. A Perfect Crime is fast-paced, tense, even witty as it careens to its bloody conclusion. Recommended for all public libraries.‘Karen Anderson, Arizona State Univ. West Lib., Phoenix (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Thursday, the best day of the week--the day of all days that Francie was predisposed to say yes. But here in the artist's studio, with its view of the Dorchester gas tank superimposed on the harbor beyond, she couldn't bring herself to do it. The problem was she hated the paintings. The medium was ink, the tool airbrush, the style photorealist, the subject slack-faced people in art galleries viewing installations; the installations, when she looked more closely, were neon messages fenced in with blood-tipped barbed wire, messages that though tiny could be read, when she looked more closely still. Francie, her nose almost touching the canvases, read them dutifully: name that tune; do you swear to tell the truth?; we will have these moments to remember. "World within world," she said, a neutral phrase that might be taken optimistically. "I'm sorry?" said the artist, following her nervously around the studio. Francie smiled at him--gaunt, hollow-eyed, twitchy, unkempt--Raskolnikov on amphetamines. She'd seen paintings of slack-faced people looking at paintings; she'd seen neon messages; she'd seen barbed wire, blood-tipped, pink, red-white-and-blue; seen art feeding on itself with an appetite that grew sharper every day. "Anything else you'd like to show me?" she said. "Anything else?" said the artist. "I'm not sure exactly what you ..." Francie kept her smile in place; artists lived uneasy lives. "Other work," she explained, as gently as she could. But not gently enough. He flung out his arm in a dramatic sweep. "This is my work." Francie nodded. Some of her colleagues would now say "I love it" and let him learn the bad news in a letter from the foundation, but Francie couldn't. Silence followed, long and uncomfortable. Time slowed down, much too soon. On Thursdays, Francie wanted time to behave as it might in some Einsteinian thought experiment, hurrying by until dark, then almost coming to a stop. The artist gazed at his shoes, red canvas basketball sneakers, paint-spattered. Francie gazed at them, too. Do you swear to tell the truth? Even bad art could get to you, or at least to her. She saw something from the corner of her eye--a small unframed canvas, leaning against the jamb of a doorless closet, went closer, to end the shoe-gazing if nothing else. "What's this?" An oil painting of a plinth, cracked, crumbling, classical, bearing a bunch of grapes, wine-dark, overripe, even rotting. And in the middle ground, not hidden, not flaunted, simply there, was a lovely figure of a girl on a skateboard, all poise, balance, speed. "That?" said the painter. "That's from years ago." "Tell me about it." "What's to tell? It was a dead end." "You didn't do any more like it?" Francie knelt, turned the painting around, read the writing on the back: oh garden, my garden. "By the dozen," said the artist. "But I painted over them whenever I needed canvas." Francie kept herself from glancing at the busy pieces on the wall. "That's the last one, in fact. Why do you ask?" "It has a kind of ..." Something. It had that something she was always looking for, so hard to put in words. To sound professional, Francie said, "... resonance." "It does?" "In my opinion." "No one liked them at the time." "Maybe I'm just a sucker for overripe fruit," Francie said, although she already knew it wasn't that. It was the girl. "Caravaggio, and all that," she explained. "Caravaggio?" "You know," she said, her heart sinking. "A kind of grape?" "He said that? A kind of grape?" Nora, having finished her lunch--a very late lunch, eaten on their feet at a coffee place in the North End--helped herself to Francie's. "Soon the past will be completely forgotten." "And life can begin," said Francie. Nora paused in midbite. "You feeling okay?" "Why do you ask?" "How's Jolly Roger these days?" "Why do you ask?" Nora laughed, choked slightly, wiped her mouth. "Can you play for me tonight?" Nora meant tennis: they belonged to the same club, had played together since eighth grade. "Not on Th--no," Francie said. "I hate to cancel on her." "Who?" "Anne? Anita? New member. Shy little frau, but she has a nice game. You should meet her." "Not tonight." "You said that. What's tonight?" "Work," Francie said, not without a twinge inside. "And you?" "Got a date. He called me this morning." "For tonight? And you said yes?" "He already knows I've been married twice--do I have to simper like a virgin for the rest of my life?" "Who's the lucky guy?" "Bernie something." Francie picked up the check--Nora's settlement from marriage one had gone the other way the second time--and got her car from the parking garage. She turned on the radio, found Ned, drove out of the city. "And we're back. I'm Ned Demarco, the program is Intimately Yours, our beat marriage, love, family in this increasingly complex world. It's Thursday, and as our regular listeners know, Thursday is our free-form day, open-forum time, no studio guests, no set topics. We talk about what you out there want to talk about. Welcome to the program, Marlene from Watertown." "Dr. Demarco?" "Ned, please." "Ned. Hi. I really enjoy your show." "Thank you, Marlene. What's on your mind?" "First, can I ask you something?" "Shoot." "That voice of yours. Do they do anything to, like, enhance it?" Ned laughed. "Lucy, in the control room: Doing anything to enhance my voice?" He laughed again, easy and natural. More relaxed with every show, Francie thought. "Lucy says she's doing all that science possibly can. Anything else, Marlene?" "It's about my husband, I guess." The woman paused. "Go on." "He--he's a wonderful father, an excellent provider. Even helps out around the house." "Sounds ideal." "I know. Which is why I feel so guilty for saying this, even having it in my mind." "Having what in your mind, Marlene?" She took a breath, deep and troubled, audible down her phone line, over the air, through the speakers in Francie's car. "Lately I've been daydreaming a lot about this boy I went with back in high school. And nightdreaming. I'm talking about all the time, Dr.--Ned. And my question is, Would there be any harm in looking him up?" Ned paused. Francie could feel him thinking. She drove into a tunnel and lost him before the answer came. The city dwindled in her rearview mirror until there was nothing left but the tops of the two big towers that gave downtown its distinctive look, intruding on a cold, silvery sky. Francie crossed the New Hampshire line, drove north on roads of less and less importance, entered the wilderness beyond the last bed-and-breakfast, and came to Brenda's gate at dusk. She got out of the car, unlocked the gate, drove through, leaving the gate closed but unlocked, as she always did. The rutted track, thick with dead leaves, led up over a hill, then down through rocky meadows to the river. Most of the light had drained from the sky, but the river held on to what was left, in odd blurred streaks of red, orange, and gold: like an autumnal Turner seen through a fingerprint-smeared lens. Francie stopped in front of the little stone jetty, where two dinghies--red Prosciutto and green Melone--were fastened to the lee side. Climbing into one, she discovered the cause of the odd blurring--a skin of ice lay on the river. So soo n? She rowed out to the island, oar blades slicing through the fiery glaze, sheared ice scratching against her bows. Brenda's island, two or three hundred feet across the river, almost halfway, was a fat oval with flattened ends, no bigger than an acre. It had a floating dock, five huge elms, isolated from disease, thick brush that hadn't been cleared in years, and a flagstone path leading up to the cottage. Francie unlocked the door and went inside, closing the door and leaving it unlocked, as she always did. The cottage: pine-floored, pine-walled; all that old, deep-polished wood made it almost a living thing, like a fairy-tale tree house. There was a south-facing kitchen, looking down the river; an L-shaped dining and living room facing the far shore; and upstairs two square bedrooms, each with a brass bed, one unmade, the other covered with pillows and a down comforter. A perfect little cottage that had been in Brenda's family for more than a hundred years; but Brenda, Francie's former college roommate, was the last survivor, and she lived in Rome. She'd asked Francie to keep an eye on it for her, using it whenever she wanted, and Francie had agreed, long before anything ulterior came along. Francie switched on the generator, lit the wood- stove, poured herself a glass of red wine, sat at the kitchen table, and watched night swallow everything--riverbanks, river, floating dock, great bare elms--leaving only the stars above, like holes pierced through to some luminous beyond. The skateboard painting--oh garden, my garden--drifted into her mind. Could she properly buy it for herself if the price was right? The artist would probably be glad of the money, but a sale to the foundation would do more for his career. Francie debated with herself for a while. The answer was no. She threw another log into the stove, refilled her glass, checked her watch. The first feeling of anxiety, like a thumb pressing the inside of her breastbone, awoke within her. Perhaps some music. She was running Brenda's CD collection through her mind when the door swung open and Ned walked in. "Sorry I'm late," he said. "You scared me." "Me?" he said with surprise. He smiled at her; his face was ruddy from the cold, his black hair blown by the river breeze. The atmosphere in the cottage changed completely: the night lost its power, lost its grip on the cottage, withdrew. "You all right?" he said. "Totally." They faced each other in the kitchen of Brenda's cottage. The expression in Ned's eyes changed, dark eyes Francie had learned to read like barometers, meteorologist of his soul. "You know what I love?" he said. "When you're waiting here, the only light for miles around, and I'm rowing across." He came closer, put his arms around her. Francie heard herself moan, a sound that happened by itself, in which she heard unambiguous longing. She didn't care if he heard it, too, couldn't have kept the sound inside in any case. "I missed you," he said. His voice vibrated against her ear; and yes, what a voice it was. "What did you tell Marlene?" Francie said, her face against his chest. "Marlene?" "Who wanted to get in touch with her old high school boyfriend." "You caught the show?" He leaned back a little so he could watch her face. "What did you think?" "You're getting better and better." He shook his head. "Thanks, but it was flat from beginning to end--and just when this syndication thing is in the air." In the silence that followed, Francie felt his mind going somewhere else. She repeated her question: "What did you tell her?" He shrugged. "That she'd be playing with fire." A little chill found the nape of Francie's neck, a draft, perhaps; it was an old dwelling, after all, with almost no insulation. The very next moment, Ned put his hand right on the spot, right on the chilly part, and rubbed gently. Then the voice, in her ear again: "But sometimes fire is irresistible." Francie felt her nipples hardening, just from the words, just from the voice. And life can begin. They went upstairs, Francie first, Ned following, as they always did. Brenda's cottage was their world. In truth, their world was even smaller than that. They spent no time in the living room, except to feed the stove, had the occasional drink in the kitchen, but not food--Ned never seemed to be hungry--and they both showered in the upstairs bathroom; other than that, their time together was spent in the made-up bedroom on the second floor. It was not much bigger than a prison cell, a prison cell where the sentence was never long enough. There was no sound in the made-up bedroom, other than what they made themselves under the down comforter. Sometimes Ned moved very slowly; sometimes he just reached between her legs with no preliminaries, as he did now. It didn't make any difference: Francie, who had always responded slowly in sex, or not at all, responded to Ned no matter what he did. She started moaning again, and the moans turned to little cries, and rose in volume, so loud they could surely be heard outside--or so she thought, although that didn't matter either: they were alone on an island in the middle of the river, with no one to hear, and then she was coming, just from the touch of his fingertip. After that, they moved together, not like dancing partners, or old familiar lovers, or any of those other similes, but more like a single organism rearranging its limbs. Their world shrank still more, smaller now than even the bedroom, down to the space under the comforter, a warm, humid, gentle world where the ancient connection between sex and love was at last clear, at least in Francie's mind. She stared into Ned's eyes, thought she saw into him to the very bottom, thought he was doing the same to her. They came together--how Francie disliked the vocabulary that went with all this--could reach this supposed goal of lovers whenever they wished, and Ned settled down on her. "It's different every time," he said after a minute or two. "I was thinking the same thing." They lay quiet. Francie pictured Ned rowing across in the darkness, herself in the cottage, both hearts beating in anticipation. "It's like 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,'" she said, "except the anticipation is met." He was silent. "At least in my case," she added, not wanting to speak for him. But Ned had fallen asleep, as he sometimes did. Because of the way he was lying on her, Francie couldn't see her watch; she would let him sleep for a little while. They breathed together, noses almost touching. In a way, this was best of all. Sometime later, Francie heard a sound outside the window, a sound she couldn't identify at first, then realized was the beating of heavy wings. An owl, perhaps. There was at least one on the island; she'd watched it, flying by day, minutes before she saw Ned for the first time: August, only a few months earlier. Francie sat on the floating dock, her feet in the river's flow. She spent an hour or so studying slides before putting them away and lying back, eyes closed to the sun. The slides lingered in her mind--images of cold-hearted children, alienating and unsettling--then faded. Francie was close to sleep when she felt a shadow pass over her body. She opened her eyes and saw, not a cloud over the sun, but an owl flying low, something white in its beak. The owl spread its wings, extended its talons, disappeared in the high branches of one of the elms. Turning back to the river, Francie caught sight of a kayak, gliding upstream. A black kayak with a dark kayaker, paddling hard. As he drew closer, Francie saw he was shirtless, fit without being muscle-bound, hairy-chested, gleaming with sweat. He didn't see her at all: his eyes were blank and he seemed to be paddling with all his might, as though in a race. He flew by, into the east channel of the river, and vanished behind the island. Francie lay back on the dock, closed her eyes. But now they didn't want to stay closed, and she didn't want to lie down. She rose, toed the end of the dock, dived into the river. The water was at its warmest, warmer than she liked. Francie swam a few strokes, then jackknifed her body as she'd been taught long ago at summer camp, and kicked easily down into the cold layers beneath. Francie had always been good at holding her breath. She swam on and on close to the bottom, ridding herself of sun-induced lassitude before rising at last, clearheaded, to the surface. She broke through, took a deep breath--and saw that the kayak, having rounded the island, was now bearing straight down on her, only a few strokes away. The kayaker was paddling as hard as ever, eyes still blank. Francie opened her mouth to yell something. At that moment he saw her. His body lost its coordination instantly; his blade caught a crab, splashing water at Francie's head. The splashed water was still in midair, a discrete body, when the kayak flipped over. The paddle bobbed up and drifted beside the upside-down kayak, but Francie didn't see the man. She dived under the kayak, felt inside; he wasn't there. She peered down into the depths, saw nothing, came up. A second later, he burst through the surface, right beside her, gasping for breath, bleeding from a gash in his forehead. "Are you all right?" she said. He looked at her. "Unless you're planning to sue me." Francie laughed. Their legs touched under the surface. He called her--at work--the next day. She hadn't been looking for love, had resigned herself to living the rest of her life without it, and perhaps for that reason had fallen all the harder. Ned awoke. Francie knew he was awake right away, even though he hadn't moved at all. She was opening her mouth to tell him about oh garden, my garden when he stiffened. "What time is it?" he said. "I don't know." He rolled over, checked his watch. "Oh, Christ." In seconds he was gone from the bed, gone from the room, and the shower was running. Francie got up, put on the robe she kept in Brenda's closet, went down to the kitchen, finished her glass of red wine. All at once, she was hungry. She let herself imagine going out with him, having dinner somewhere, feasting, then coming back, back to the little bedroom. Ned came downstairs, knotting his tie. A beautiful tie--all his ties, his clothes, the way he wore his hair--beautiful. "Hungry?" she said. "Hungry?" he answered with surprise. "No. You?" She shook her head. He leaned over, kissed her forehead very lightly. "I'll call," he said. She tilted her face up to his. He kissed her again, this time on the mouth, still very lightly. She licked his lips, tasted toothpaste. He straightened. "Rowing back is another matter," he said. Then he was gone, the door opening and closing softly. The draft reached Francie a few seconds later. Driving fast toward the city, Ned realized how hungry he really was. Had he eaten at all since breakfast? He considered stopping somewhere along the way but kept going, one eye on the radar detector; he liked eating at home. Ned switched on the radio, found their only affiliate, a weak AM station that replayed the shows at night. He heard himself say: "What do you mean by looking him up?" a little too sharply; he'd have to watch that. "You know," said the woman--Marlene, or whatever her name was. "Finding out where he is. Giving him a call." "To what end?" "To what end?" He should have gotten rid of her right there; he had so much to learn about the entertainment part. "For what purpose?" "I guess to see what happens." "Marlene?" "Yes?" "In your description of your husband's good points, I think--correct me if I'm mistaken--you omitted any mention of your sex life." "I've tried, Ned. To make it more exciting. Nothing works." "What have you tried?" The car phone buzzed and Ned missed the woman's answer; he didn't recall it being interesting anyway, although he suspected the question was the kind the syndicators liked. "Hello?" he said into the phone. "Dad? Hi, it's me, Em." "I recognized the voice." "You think you're so funny. Where are you?" "On my way." "There's no dessert." "What would you like?" "Rocky road." "Consider it done. Love you." "Love you, too, Dad." Ned stopped at a grocery store near his house, bought two pints of rocky road, a jar of chocolate sauce, almonds. At the cash register, he noticed some nice fresh flowers: iri Excerpted from A Perfect Crime by Peter Abrahams All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.