A Student of Living Things [NOOK Book]


The Frayn family of Washington, D.C., is coping pretty well with twenty-first century realities of life?snipers, bomb threats, natural disasters, etc. Then, in the moment it takes Claire Frayn to dig for her umbrella, her politically outspoken brother Steven is shot down right next to her on the library steps.

Steven's murder shatters the tightly knit Frayn family, and his sister Claire becomes determined to unravel the mystery of why her ...
See more details below
A Student of Living Things

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price


The Frayn family of Washington, D.C., is coping pretty well with twenty-first century realities of life?snipers, bomb threats, natural disasters, etc. Then, in the moment it takes Claire Frayn to dig for her umbrella, her politically outspoken brother Steven is shot down right next to her on the library steps.

Steven's murder shatters the tightly knit Frayn family, and his sister Claire becomes determined to unravel the mystery of why her brother was killed. Searching for answers, Claire meets Victor, an enigmatic stranger who claims to know who killed Steven. Claire begins an unusual correspondence with the suspected assassin, but instead of uncovering the truth of her brother's death, she finds herself drawn to this man, and increasingly apprehensive about cooperating with Victor's plans to avenge Steven's death.

A gripping family drama with an unusual love story at its center, this is an intimate portrait of grief, the futility of revenge, and the miracle of forgiveness.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Valerie Sayers
[Shreve's] style is brisk and engaging, even tantalizing, particularly in the first half of the book. An air of menace yields to a sense of anticipation as Claire seems about to crack open the mystery of her brother's death. She and her family are vividly drawn: Claire, a graduate student of biology, knows all about the natural world but has been curiously sheltered from men. Her father is a professor of medicine, who retreats nightly to a hangar in the back garden where he rebuilds antique planes; her mother, Julia, whose parents fled both Nazi Europe and Pinochet-era Chile, is angry and vibrant.
— The Washington Post
The Washington Post
Provocative. Tantalizing.
The Seattle Times
Shreve has captured the post-9/11 zeitgeist ... part family drama and part psychological thriller, [this novel] is something else as well: an old-fashioned epistolary romance.
Publishers Weekly
One April morning in a near-future Washington, D.C., Claire Frayn and her brother, Steven, leave for George Washington University, where she is a biology Ph.D. student (and mother of three-month-old Asa), Steven is a law student with a penchant for writing op-eds and their father is a professor of medicine; aunt Faith works nearby in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. They leave their parents and extended family arguing over Steven's latest piece: this one bashes the DOJ's enforcement of the Freedom for Democracy Act. It is a salvo in the "civil war" (as Claire describes it) that churns as U.S. homeland security tightens, and paranoia reigns. Steven is shot dead on the library steps; that same morning, Faith is fired. Claire, steps from Steven when he dies, slowly resumes daily life and metamorphoses like the insects that fascinated her since childhood. With Asa's father out of the picture, she slips into a cloak-and-dagger scheme with an alluring stranger to coax Steven's killer back to town. Shreve, author of 12 novels and more than two score children's books, is parsimonious with the opening plot points, but once the momentum shifts forward, just try to put this book down. (On sale May 4) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As a graduate student in biology, Claire tends to a menagerie of creatures-mice, birds, snakes, and insects-and she finds solace in this daily routine. However, she is constantly aware that just beyond the relative safety of the academic arena, there is widespread fear and civil unrest. On one fateful day, these two worlds collide when Claire's brother, a law student with shadowy connections, is shot and killed as he and Claire are leaving the campus library. Of course, many questions arise. Who, for instance, is the man who has been following Claire since that terrible day? Are she and the rest of the family in danger as well? Shreve is a veteran writer of both juvenile fiction and adult fiction, often exploring the oh-so-uncomfortable mix of terrorism and family dynamics, as in Plum & Jaggers (2000). Within this latest novel of suspense, political intrigue, and psychological drama, protagonist Claire narrates the story in a dispassionate voice that somehow serves to increase the level of pervasive anxiety. Indeed, the author says that she found her ideas for the story during the time of the "Beltway Snipers" incidents around Washington, DC, in 2002. A dark and fog-shrouded tale; recommended for readers of contemporary suspense in larger fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the aftermath of a political murder, a young woman opts for vengeance in this thriller-paced family drama. In the Washington, D.C., of a not-too-distant future, in the midst of mysterious bombings and red alerts and a Justice Department tightening the screws, law student Steven Frayn is shot on the steps of his university's library. The FBI soon concludes that this was not just another random terrorist attack (cousin Bernard lost a leg to a bomb at a convenience store) but an assassination-someone wanted Steven dead. The murder unravels a close-knit family. Steven's father retreats to the small hangar in the yard of their Bethesda home, where he is rebuilding an old plane-never mind that he doesn't know how to fly. Mother Julia rants and makes suspect lists for the FBI. Uncle Milo decides what the family really needs is music, and so buys a piano. But it is the novel's narrator, Steven's sister Claire, who becomes embroiled in an unlikely plot to bring Steven's killer to justice. A biology student (with a musty bedroom filled with dead and living things), Claire returns to school after the murder and (not so accidentally) meets Victor Duarte, a young radical who claims to have known Steven, and may have answers as to who killed him. The magnetic Victor convinces Claire that Benjamin Reed, a music student in Michigan and son of Charles Reed, head of the Justice Department, is Steven's killer. Victor creates an elaborate plan to trap Benjamin, and Claire, in her shock and sorrow, can't see the absurdity of the scheme. As Benjamin and Claire begin to exchange love letters of sorts-music that they compose-Claire begins to question what she knows about Victor, Steven and herself. Shreve'sstorytelling, smart and economic, is in danger here of being too spare-her grand collection of characters is beautifully outlined, but not fully realized, and for a novel trading in emotional upheaval, that is no small flaw. Evocative and thoughtful, but too thin to prove a success.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440696060
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/3/2007
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • File size: 626 KB

Meet the Author

Susan Richards Shreve has published twelve novels and twenty-six books for children, and has coedited five anthologies. A professor at George Mason University, she has received several grants for fiction including from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a former visiting professor at Princeton and Columbia universities.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2007

    A waste of time.

    I was disappointed in this book. It moves very slowly and isn't much of a thriller. A predictable plot with little action. Life is too short to read books like this.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific thriller

    Claire Frayn is a post graduate student majoring in biology at George Washington University her brother Steven is studying law at the school and enjoys writing articles criticizing the government. Claire and Steven head to the university together while their parents debate his latest condemnation, this time of the Department of Justice¿s use of the Freedom for Democracy Act to trample on individual rights under the guise of keeping people safe. At the school¿s library, an assassin shoots and kills Steven right near Claire --- Claire goes through the five steps of grief, but wants revenge against the killer who conveniently escapes law enforcement however she feels helpless as she has no idea who he or she is or how to uncover the culprit¿s identity. From Michigan, music composer Victor Duarte contacts Claire informing her he can help her with her need to avenge her sibling. She is enticed by his offer as her family remains devastated by the tragedy and is not there for her. However, as Claire heals she begins to ponder who charismatic Victor is, as he seems to know too much yet the second civil war in her mind began with that bullet on the library steps. --- Though the introduction to the extended Frayn family takes its time, once Steven is murdered, the story line turns into a terrific thriller that never slows down until the climax. Claire is a wonderful heroine struggling with the death of her brother as much as with her feelings of hopelessness until Victor offers her an opportunity. Like Claire when she begins to regain her equilibrium and leave behind much of the fog of grief, readers will wonder if she has agreed to a Faustian deal. Readers will be a student of Susan Richards Shreve following this tense tale. --- Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)