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4.2 43
by James Siegel

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For Charles Schine, it began as a quiet, ordinary day with a simple commute to work...until he meets the seductive, mysterious Lucinda Harris--an encounter that will irrevocably wreck his life. From multi-talented writer James Siegel comes a highly charged, suspenseful tale of murder, betrayal, and revenge. Warner Books is proud to present Siegel's newest thriller,


For Charles Schine, it began as a quiet, ordinary day with a simple commute to work...until he meets the seductive, mysterious Lucinda Harris--an encounter that will irrevocably wreck his life. From multi-talented writer James Siegel comes a highly charged, suspenseful tale of murder, betrayal, and revenge. Warner Books is proud to present Siegel's newest thriller, featuring rich characterizations and a scintillating plot that builds to an explosive climax sure to stun readers.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Momentum is the key to suspense, and James Siegel definitely has what it takes to unlock this tricky genre and draw readers into his riveting story from page one. Derailed starts with the story of an ordinary man, a teacher who divides his time between kids who think school is jail and real felons at Attica State Prison. His story gradually blends with one that's being shared by an anonymous inmate -- a compelling story of a mutual obsession that swiftly leads to disaster. It begins with a chance meeting on a commuter train between an advertising executive and a beautiful stockbroker -- both married to other people. They seek each other out, time after time, until an affair becomes inevitable. Then, just as they reach that idyllic peak, a brutal criminal shatters their lives. It's the perfect crime. The lovers are compelled by their situation to hide the fact that they are victims…even when their attacker moves from assault to blackmail. In Derailed, lies and small betrayals escalate inevitably to violence, murder, and more, often blurring the line between right and wrong. Sue Stone
James Patterson
Derailed sure derailed me for a couple of nights. What a neat, twisty, well-written thriller! James Siegel has arrived in high style.
USA Today
The novel is a whopper of a story... This thriller was made for a long plane trip. Just keep your eyes on the page.
Washington Post
...an ingenious little machine that seizes you, intrigues you, titillates you, and finally cuts you loose...popular fiction at its slickest and should find a multitude of readers.
Publishers Weekly
There's an extraordinary amount of hype attached to this thriller, from a rave letter in the galley by Warner head Laurence J. Kirshbaum to an announced ad/ promo campaign of $500,000 and enthusiastic blurbs from Christopher Reich and, notably, James Patterson. The buzz is warranted: this story of a middle-class professional whose life goes incredibly, criminally awry is one of the most exciting thrillers in years. And why is a blurb from James Patterson notable? Because Siegel (Epitaph) seems to have learned at his feet. Like Patterson, Siegel is an ad man (a creative director at BBDO; and he, like Patterson, has created TV spots for his book) who mixes first- and third-person narration and knows how to reduce a thriller to its essence. Protagonist Charles Schine is also a Manhattan ad man, married, with a diabetic teen daughter; troubles at home and at work lead him to fall in lust with a sexy younger woman he meets on his commuter train, and finally to a hotel assignation that goes terribly wrong when an armed man bursts in, beats Charles and rapes his date, then blackmails Charles for a staggering amount of money. Charles tries to fight the blackmail by hiring muscle, a disastrous move that gets him into potentially dire legal trouble, as does his agreeing to participate in a company scam in a desperate bid to make back some of the blackmail money-and all that just takes readers into the middle of this terrific yarn, which will blindside them again and again with shocking but plausible twists. With its clean prose, high-velocity plotting and just the right amount of emotional shading darkening its sharply drawn characters, this novel is the bomb. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Ad executive Charles Schine's descent into a nightmarish world of ex-cons, scam artists, and thugs couldn't have begun more idyllically. A brief encounter on a commuter train with a seductive woman named Lucinda Harris leads to an afternoon tryst in a shabby Manhattan hotel. But just as the two lovers are about to leave, a man named Vasquez bursts into the room, beats up Charles, repeatedly rapes Lucinda, and robs them both. Unable to go to the police, since both are married, they find themselves vulnerable to blackmail. Soon, Charles is forced to risk his job, his marriage, and the health of his diabetic daughter in a battle of wits with a man who seems always one step ahead of him. Written with psychological insight and exceptional skill by an author whose debut (Epitaph) was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First Novel, this is a riveting story in which the prose glides as effortlessly as Charles's descent into hell. The immensely satisfying plot is marked by multidimensional characters, a highly original structure, an ever more gripping duel, and authentic details that range from prison life to a diabetic's struggle for survival. Expect demand, as the publisher has planned a half-million-dollar advertising campaign. Enthusiastically recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/02.]-Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ad exec Siegel (Epitaph, 2001) swings for the fences with this preposterous, compulsively readable story of a casual fling that flings its partners into the lower depths of hell. Charles Schine usually catches the 8:43 to Penn Station, but one day his daughter Anna's juvenile diabetes regimen slows him down, and he lands on the 9:05 without his commuter ticket or his money. When an obliging stranger with legs down to here offers to pay for him, it's lust at first sight, and soon Charles and Lucinda are sharing lunches, cocktails, and conversations about their boring marriages. But their tryst at a run-down hotel is turned into a nightmare by Raul Vasquez, who assaults them just as they're leaving, robs them at gunpoint, then forces Charles to watch as he assaults Lucinda again for hours on end. By the end of their ordeal, Charles is humbled, unmanned, and far too intimidated to go the police. He's also (first gaping plothole) all too ready to pay Vasquez whatever he asks, even raiding his daughter's savings in order to keep his family from finding out what daddy was up to in the city. When Vasquez ups his demands, Charles, evidently oblivious to the unrelated trouble he's stirring up at his advertising job (second hole), plots a retaliation that will deliver him still more firmly to the forces of darkness. Though every thrust and counterthrust to date has been deliciously predictable, Siegel seems to toss the one-false-move playbook out the window with Charles's determination to recover the money Vasquez extorted, and from this point on specific implausibilities are swallowed in a trail of roller-coaster sparks that lead, in the end, to the biggest con of all. Irresistible hokum writtenwith an obvious eye on Hollywood, where producers will have to decide whether to make Charles's tribulations believable or hope viewers, like lucky readers, will surrender themselves to its spell.

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Grand Central Publishing
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt


I spend five days a week teaching English at East Bennington High and two nights a week teaching English at Attica State Prison. Which is to say, I spend my time conjugating verbs for delinquents and dangling participles for convicts. One class feeling like they're in prison and the other class actually being in one.

On the Attica evenings, I eat an early dinner with my wife and two children. I kiss my wife and teenage daughter goodbye and give my four-year-old son a piggyback ride to the front door. I gently put him down, kiss his soft brow, and promise to look in on him when I get home.

I enter my eight-year-old Dodge Neon still surrounded in a halo of emotional well-being. By the time I pass through the metal detector at Attica Prison, it's gone.

Maybe it's the brass plaque prominently displayed on the wall of the visitors room. "Dedicated to the Correction Officers who died in the Attica riots," it says. There is no plaque for the prisoners who died..I have only recently begun teaching there, and I can't quite decide who's scarier-the Attica prisoners or the corrections officers who guard them. Possibly the corrections officers. It's clear they don't like me much. They consider me a luxury item, like cable TV, something the prisoners did nothing to deserve. The brainchild of some liberal in Albany, who's never had a shiv stuck in his ribs or feces thrown in his face, who's never had to peel a tattooed carcass off a blood-soaked floor swimming with AIDS.

They greet me with barely disguised contempt. It's the PHD, they mumble. "Pathetic Homo Douchebag," one of them scrawled on the wall of the visitors bathroom. I forgive them.

They are the outnumbered occupiers of an enslaved population seething with hatred. To survive this hate, they must hate back. They are not allowed to carry guns, so they arm themselves with attitude.

As for the prisoners who attend my class, they are strangely docile. Many of them the unfortunate victims of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws that treat small purchases of cocaine like violent felonies. They mostly look bewildered. Now and then, I give them writing assignments. Write something, I say. Anything. Anything that interests you. I used to have them read their work in class. Until one convict, a sloe-eyed black named Benjamin Washington, read what sounded like gibberish. It was gibberish, and the other convicts laughed at him. Benjamin took offense at this and later knifed one of them in the back over a breakfast of watery scrambled eggs and burnt toast.

I decided on anonymity there and then. They write what interests them and send it up to the desk unsigned. I read it out loud and nobody knows who wrote what. The writer knows; that's good enough. One day, though, I asked them to write something that would interest me. The story of them. How they got here, for instance, to Mr. Widdoes's English class in the rec room at Attica State Prison. If they wanted to be writers, I told them, start with the writer.

It might be enlightening, I thought, maybe even cathartic. It might be more interesting than the story "Tiny the Butterfly," a recent effort from . . . well, I don't know, do I? Tiny brought color and beauty to a weed-strewn lot in the projects until he was, unfortunately, crushed like a bug by the local crank dealer. Tiny, it was explained at the bottom of the page, was cymbollic. I gave out the assignment on Thursday; by next Tuesday the papers were scattered across my desk. I read them aloud in no particular order. The first story about an innocent man being framed for armed robbery. The second story about an innocent man being framed for possession of illegal narcotics. The third story about an innocent man being framed. . .

So maybe it wasn't that enlightening. But then.

Another story. Hardly a story at all (although it had a title); a kind of introduction to a story. An invitation to one, really. About another innocent man. Who walked on the train one day to go to work. When something happened.


The morning Charles met Lucinda, it took him several moments after he first opened his eyes to remember why he liked keeping them closed.

Then his daughter, Anna, called him from the hallway and he thought: Oh yeah. She needed lunch money, a note for the gym teacher, and help with a book report that was due yesterday. Not in that order.

In a dazzling feat of juggling, he managed all three between showering, shaving, and getting dressed. He had to. His wife, Deanna, had already left for her job at P.S. 183, leaving him solely in charge.

When he made it downstairs he noticed Anna's blood meter and a used syringe on the kitchen counter. Anna had made him late.

When he got to the station, his train had already left-he could hear a faint rumble as it retreated into the distance. By the time the next train pulled in, the platform had been repopulated by an entirely new cast of commuters. He knew most of the 8:43 crowd by sight, but this was the 9:05, so he was in alien territory.

He found a seat all by himself and immediately dived into the sports pages.

It was November. Baseball had slipped away with another championship for the home team. Basketball was just revving up, football already promising a year of abject misery. This is the way he remained for the next twenty minutes or so: head down, eyes forward, brain dead-awash in meaningless stats he could reel off like his Social Security number, numbers he could recite in his sleep, and sometimes did, if only to keep himself from reciting other numbers. Which numbers were those?

Well, the numbers on Anna's blood meter, for example. Numbers that were increasingly and alarmingly sky high. Anna had suffered with juvenile diabetes for over eight years. Anna wasn't doing well.

So all things being equal, he preferred a number like 3.25. Roger-the-Rocket-Clemens's league-leading ERA this past season. Or twenty-two-there was a good round number. Latrell Sprewell's current points per game, accumulated, dreadlocks flying, for the New York Knicks.

Numbers he could look at without once feeling sick. The train lurched, stopped.

They were somewhere between stations-dun-colored ranch houses on either side of the track. It suddenly occurred to him that even though he'd ridden this train more times than he cared to remember, he couldn't describe a single neighborhood it passed through. Somewhere along the way to middle age, he'd stopped looking out windows. He burrowed back into the newspaper.

It was at that exact moment, somewhere between Steve Serby's column on the state of the instant replay rule and Michael Strahan's lamentation on his diminishing sack total, that it happened.

Later he would wonder what exactly had made him look up again at that precise moment in time. He would ask himself over and over what would have happened if he hadn't. He would torture himself with all the permutations, the what ifs and what thens and what nows. But he did look up.

The 9:05 from Babylon to Penn Station kept going. Merrick to Freeport to Baldwin to Rockville Centre. Lynbrook to Jamaica to Forest Hills to Penn. But Charles clearly and spectacularly derailed.


Two nights later after dinner, my four-year-old climbed onto my lap and demanded I do treasure hunt on his back. "We're going on a treasure hunt," I whispered as I traced little steps up and down his spine. "X marks the spot . . ." as he squirmed and giggled. He smelled of shampoo and candy and Play-Doh, the scent that was clearly and uniquely him. "To get to the treasure, you take big steps and little steps," I murmured, and when I finished he asked me where this treasure was exactly, and I answered him on cue. This, after all, was our routine.

"Right here," I said. And hugged him. My wife smiled at us from the other side of the table. When I kissed them all good-bye, I lingered before stepping out into the driveway. As if I were attempting to soak up enough good vibes to last me through the night, straight through the redbrick archway of Attica and into the fetid rec room. Like a magic aura that might protect me from harm. "Be careful," my wife said from the front door.

When I went through the metal detector, it went off like an air raid siren.

I'd forgotten to take my house keys out of my pocket. "Hey, Yobwoc," the CO said while patting me down. "Keys are like. . . metal." Yobwoc was Cowboy backward and stood for Young Obnoxious Bastard We Often Con. PHD was just one of my monikers here. "Sorry," I said, "forgot."

As soon as I entered the classroom, I could see there was another piece of the story waiting for me at my desk. Eleven pages, neatly printed. Yes, I thought. The story is just getting started. Other sections soon followed like clockwork. From that first day on, there would be another piece of the story waiting for me every time I entered the classroom. Sometimes just a page or two-sometimes what would constitute several chapters. Placed flat on my desk and all, like the first one, unsigned. The story unfolding piecemeal, like a daytime serial you just can't pull your eyes away from. After all, it would end up containing all the staples of soap opera-sex, lies, and tragedy.

I didn't read these installments to my class. I understood they were solely for me now. Me and, of course, the writer. Speaking of which.

There were twenty-nine students in my class. Eighteen blacks, six Hispanics, five pale-as-ghosts Caucasians. I was reasonably sure that none of them had ever ridden the 9:05 to Pennsylvania Station. So where was he?

Copyright © 2003 by James Siegel

What People are Saying About This

James Patterson
Derailed sure derailed me for a couple of nights. What a neat, twisty, well-written thriller! James Siegel has arrived in high style.
Nelson Demille
Intense and startling...a top-notch novel of suspense, with unexpected twists that are shocking and satisfying...Complex characters, tight plotting, and powerful writing.
James W. Hall
Gripping...relentless...powerfully real....Mesmerizing from the first chapter, this novel is full of whiplash twists, compelling characters, and visceral and wrenching dramatic moments.

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Derailed 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was derailed early within the pages of this book. The description of bestiality the author presents, and moreover, his descriptions of the rape scene, were nauseating and sickening. I could read no further and have taken this author off of my reading list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jayne1126 More than 1 year ago
This book kept me on the hook from start to finish! I could hardly put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Siegel's Derailed is pure poetry. Tight construction, not one erroneous word and a true page turner to boot. You won't be disappointed with this novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is THE GREATEST BOOK i have ever read. I'm not much of a book reader but this was just great. So much suspense and action. I saw the movie too, but it wasnt as good as the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One word, AMAZING. This story starts you off in a regular 'I'm cheating on my husband/wife' storyline, but at every turn of a page there is a diffrent twist that grasp your mind in this world off betrayel and suspence. Oh, and the ending, just a complete shoker, I have to say so myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was actually looking for another book which was sold out - decided why not, when I picked up DERAILED. I'm sure I will go to see the movie but it can't be as good as the book! Read it in two days....can't wait to read this author's next book, DETOUR, which sounds as if it will be another page-turner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Derailed is one of those fine books that makes reading worth the hours. I couldn¿t put the book down, and now I am eagerly waiting for the movie to come out. The characters are well written and will have you fully engrossed in their story from chapter one. The story does flow like a derailed train, making each page easier to turn then the last.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a can't-wait-to-see-what-happens-next story all the way. It has been a long, long time since I enjoyed a book this much. James Siegel has a very readable style of writing, and I look forward to reading more of his works.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I read by James Siegel.I could not put it down till the end. A lot of twists and turns but his skillful writing kept me on track. I am looking forward to reading Detoured and Epitaph.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was too graphic from the beginning. In fact, I was not able to finish it. I thought the characters portrayed in the book were very unrealistic, because of the idiotic choices they made.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was given to me by my brother and was an author I never read or had heard of so I was skeptical. I could not put it down. The author weaves intricate detail and insights to a middle age man who wants a fling. But the character development is great and the twist unexpected. I always recommend this to friends now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely awesome!No dull page in it! you just have the need to know what will happen next! Great great book! I'm hooked on James siegel
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an A++!! What else can I say! I could not stop reading this book! I wish there were more writers like James Siegel, or please write another because I am hooked. Thank you so much for this story! I was need for some good reading
Guest More than 1 year ago
These book was exciting from start to finish i recommended it to anyone.Not a boring moment in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i finished this book in a 4 hour sitting. it was like most people said, 'graphic' in the beginning, but it was still an overall entertaining thriller. the story got a really unrealistic towards the end, but that's fiction for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read approximately 3 books a week - mostly thrillers. This is one of the best I have ever read. It twist, it turns and has you talking out loud while reading it(I would be reading and then say 'HE WHAT'). I passed it on to some other avid reader friends and they couldn't wait to discuss it when they finished it. Mine ended up getting wet in the rain and I am on my way to buy it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, this is a great read! This was my first James Siegel book, and I'm looking foward to reading another. I grabbed this book for a weekend at the beach - I finished it in 2 days - I couldn't put it down. This is certainly not a book for those with a weak stomach.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Usually i dont like to read, i got this book as a present from my bf. Once i started the 1st page, i couldnt help but want to read it all the time, in between lunch breaks & on the train .. i had to find out the ending. I recomend this book to almost any1!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wouldn't be surprised if this book turns up as a movie in the future. Lots of twists and turns as promised in the book blurb. A little graphic in an early chapter, so for those of you who prefer your violence off-screen, beware. However, later on, the reader can see the author's intent of doing this in trying to establish the dangerous people he's dealing with. Toward the end, the plot is a bit contrived, but if you overlook it, the story still delivers a satisfying ending. And the suspense throughout makes up for any plot flaws. Would like to see more of this author's work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best thriller I've read in a great while. Lots of twists and turns. I started reading it on a Friday night, and finished it on Monday afternoon. Keep your eyes and ears open and look for the clues along the way. Superb easy read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I listened to the audio and it kept me in suspense, so many twists and turns, it was excellent!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading the first page of this novel I found myself unable to put it down. This story is entertaining