Cover image for Turncoat
Elkins, Aaron J.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, [2002]

Physical Description:
298 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

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Pete Simon's all-American life was everything he ever wished for: a good home, a satisfying career, and a marriage still strong and loving after nearly twenty years. But in the days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, everything is about to change. And it begins with the appearance of a stranger at his door.

The man ranting madly about money, death, and forgiveness is unknown to Pete -- but not to his distraught wife, Lily. Only when the man has gone does the truth come out. The unwelcome visitor was Lily 's father, whom she had claimed died long ago in their native France. The next day he is dead, his savagely beaten body washed up in a nearby marsh -- and Lily disappears, leaving a note behind begging Pete not to follow her.

As a nation mourns its fallen leader, Pete Simon is devastated by a tragedy of his own. Now, with a business card from an antiques dealer in Barcelona as his only lead, he sets out to find his missing wife, embarking on a twisted and perilous journey that will carry him to Europe, where the hideous crimes of the Nazi aggressors remain fresh in the minds of those who cannot forget...or forgive. But each door Pete opens leads him deeper into a painful and shocking past slowly revealing secrets of greed, terror, guilt, and treacherous collaboration with a monstrous enemy that could shatter everything he believes in destroy everything he loves. And suddenly he has become more than a concerned husband and seeker of a bitter truth; he has become the target of desperate, dangerous men and their terrifying vengeance.

A haunting parable of good and evil and the many shifting shades of humanity in between, Aaron Elkins's Turncoat is an extraordinary reading experience, a compelling, provocative, and rocket-paced rollercoaster ride with surprises at every turn that will leave the reader breathless.

Author Notes

Former anthropologist Aaron Elkins has been writing mysteries and thrillers since 1982.

He won an Edgar award for Old Bones, as well as an Agatha (with his wife Charlotte), and a Nero Wolfe Award. His major continuing series features forensic anthropologist-detective Gideon Oliver, "the skeleton detective".

Aaron speaks often at professional conferences, is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, has written for Smithsonian magazine, and is the author of several short stories. His work, which has been published in over a dozen languages, include: NASTY BREAKS (with his wife Charlotte Elkins), MAKE NO BONES, A DECEPTIVE CLARITY, SKELETON DANCE, THE DARK PLACE, and Little Tiny Teeth.

He and his wife Charlotte live in Washington.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

One of the many joys of reading Elkins comes from sorting through his myriad plot layers. In his latest, Brooklyn College history professor Pete Simon has been happily married for 17 years to Lily, a lovely French woman he met during World War II. In 1963, two events rock Pete's comfortable world: JFK's assassination and the discovery that Lily has lied about much of her life. After finding Lily engaged in a heated argument with an elderly Frenchman, Pete learns that the man is Lily's supposedly long-dead father. Lily refuses to explain why she lied, and, when the old man is murdered, she disappears, leaving Pete only with a note telling him not to follow. Realizing that the solution lies in Europe, Pete sets off to learn more about Lily's father and to find his wife. Elkins masterfully weaves both backstory about his characters' lives and WWII history into a highly suspenseful plot. Without condoning collaborators or glorifying Nazis, he shows us that what we think of as black and white is sometimes closer to gray. Elkins is best known for his fine series starring forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver, but he also excels at WWII-era thrillers (Loot, 1998). An outstanding novel. --Jenny McLarin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Best known for the witty, Francophiliac Gideon Oliver mystery series, Elkins here delivers a stand-alone thriller that probes wartime guilt from multiple angles. For history professor Pete Simon and his French-born wife, Lily, Brooklyn in 1963 is worlds away from the horrors of WWII. But when Lily's father, Marcel Vercier, turns up on their doorstep begging her to view an old film, the Simons' cozy life combusts. Lily had always maintained that her father had been shot by the Nazis in 1943; now, caught in her lie and troubled by unfathomable other secrets, she refuses to answer Pete's urgent questions. Before the Simons can see the film, Vercier is murdered, and masked thugs break into their apartment, demanding to have it. Lily hands it over, then disappears, leaving Pete a cryptic note about needing space. Feeling like a sap, Pete decides to find her anyway, flying to Barcelona, where Vercier was apparently partner in an antiques dealership. A tough interview with the dead man's cagey co-partner, Charles Lebrun, reveals little about the film, the murder or Lily's whereabouts, but it does enlighten Pete as to Vercier's wartime collaboration with Nazi occupiers. As Pete delves deeper into Vercier's past, he learns painful truths about Lily's family, finally concluding, When it comes to making blanket moral judgements about people"please, leave me out of it. Some of the characters are sketchy, particularly Lily, who never amounts to more than an incredible simulation of Leslie Caron. The plot takes familiar paths, with an ending that ties up matters rather too neatly, especially given Pete's hard-earned tolerance for moral relativity. Still, this first-person novel captivates, largely because Pete's voice, a garlicky mix of France and Brooklyn, always sounds just right. 5-city West Coast author tour. (May 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved