Risk

By COLIN HARRISON

If you missed Harrison’s delightful thriller when it ran as a serial in the New York Times Magazine last year, forget about it. This new paperback edition is sharper, longer and much more fun to read.

Harrison is a master of imperfect central characters. George Young is an attorney for a top insurance firm. It’s his long-running job to expose suspicious claims. But Mrs. Corbett, the rich, eccentric wife of the firm’s founder, wants to put George’s skills to a special, non-insurance assignment. With only a few months to live, her one desire is to know the true circumstance of her son Roger’s violent death — hit by a truck as he walked out of a bar. George’s investigation leads him to Roger’s mistress, an elusive Czech hand model named Eliska Sedlacek, whose motives for latching on to Mrs. Corbett’s son may have gotten him killed.

George Young is a perfect Harrison hero. “The work can be exciting, and a little nasty,” he says about his job. “Which I confess is interesting.”

His wife, Carol, also a lawyer, works in the compliance division of “a huge New York bank… Being a naturally suspicious person, Carol has done well at her job.”

The Youngs turn out to be a formidable couple of detectives (“Now and then I am reminded that my wife is smarter than I am. This was one of those times,” George tells us when Carol spots an important clue.) Aided by a shrewd bartender and a friendly gangster, they uncover a tangled plot involving valuable metals hidden in cheap Christmas decorations. But not even such shrewd investigators can imagine what old Mrs. Corbett is really looking for.

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