Labouring under the burden of being turned into a movie starring Jennifer Anniston (though with Clive Owen on board the British critics won’t know whether it gets the automatic pan or patriotic praise – oh, what a dilemma!) this is actually a pretty well-done suspense novel, which stops just short of being an extremely remarkable debut.
Siegel’s set-up is brilliant. His advertising director hero, Charles Schine, is exactly the sort of half-brained bozo film noir was created to exploit, and from the moment he meets Lucinda Harris he is doomed. The noose tightens around his neck, his life begins to constrict, and then, all of sudden, by chance, he sees the light. Okay, we’re allowed a slight dose of coincidence in order to move the story on, and give him the chance to turn the tables. But remember, Schine is a schlub, and his table-turning falls short. Until, that is, they get run over by a bus and everything is OK. Actually, no, that’s not literally what happens, and I won’t give away what does, but suffice it to say that even if the bus is driven by a terrorist in post-9/11 New York, it’s still a bus, a cop-out, and one too many deus ex machina coincidences for any novel. I haven’t seen the film yet, but the book was wringing fantastic suspense from the basic dilemma of the married man who’s messed up and now is fighting just to keep his marital head above water. Then it cheats. Reminds me of the moment when Fatal Attraction stopped being a suspense film and turned into a horror movie. But the ride is fine, until it crashes into the bus.