Thomas H. Cook is a master of broody, atmospheric, wait-till-you-read-the-last-line mystery/thrillers. Although The Fate of Katherine Carr bolts out of the starting gate with Mr. Cook’s characteristically lovely prose and a plot engineered to freak out even the most stoic reader, the story falls far short of his better efforts in the genre.
The book is a story within a story, within yet another story. George Gates is a small-town newspaperman trying to live beyond the pain of the abduction and death of his young son seven years previously. He and an incurably ill girl become obsessed with the story of Katherine Carr, a woman who disappeared years before from the same town. Mr. Cook takes the reader through George’s journey into Katherine’s memories and writing, even as the entire narrative is framed by George relating the story to a Mr. Mayawati in India.
The leaps between perspectives and time frames are a bit disconcerting, and Mr. Cook’s typical “Gotcha!” ending feels forced and unsatisfying. Fans of Mr. Cook may enjoy it just as a way to complete their Cook set, but for Cook novices, The Chatham School Affair or Red Leaves would be a better place to start.