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An honest lawyer, a Czech hand model, and a box of mysterious Christmas ornaments--each plays a part in Colin Harrison's compelling ...
An honest lawyer, a Czech hand model, and a box of mysterious Christmas ornaments--each plays a part in Colin Harrison's compelling new intrigue
George Young never thought of himself as a detective, but that's pretty much his vocation--an attorney at a top insurance firm, it's his job to pin down suspicious claims. But Mrs. Corbett, the rich, eccentric wife of the firm's founder, has it in mind to put George's skills to a peculiar assignment. With only a few months left to live, her one desire is to know the true circumstance of her son Roger's violent death. George's investigation leads him to Roger's mistress, a cagey Czech hand model named Eliska, who can cast a seductive spell simply by removing her gloves.
Did Eliska's motives for latching on to Roger get him killed? Or did some of her shadowy and dangerous little friends take care of the job? And why were there boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments in the dead man's apartment? George will have to take a few chances of his own if he wants to get to the bottom of Roger's death for Mrs. Corbett.
Set against a volatile and vividly drawn Manhattan, Risk is prime Colin Harrison.
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 pair 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. --Dick Adler
When Mrs. Corbett asks George to investigate her son's death, she already assumes that it was an accident - what she really wants to know is why Roger was standing on the particular corner where he was killed. How does her motivation set Risk apart from other mysteries? Is this a mystery without a murderer?
Why do you think Roger was drawn to Eliska, what about her entranced him (was he, in fact, entranced)? And do you think that she merely used him, or that she may have had sincere feelings?
Roger's wife, Valerie, divorces him when he is unable to get back on his feet. Is her behavior ruthless, or did Roger default on the expectations of their marriage to provide her with a prosperous life? Is she partly responsible for Roger's death?
When George is in Roger's storage unit, he finds a pair of boots that fit him perfectly, and he decides to walk off with them. Why do you think George feels entitled to the boots? Do you think that he identifies with Roger in some way, and is here beginning to sense their connection?
Money plays an important role in Risk - While George lives in pleasant middle-class security, Roger took risks and soon found himself dangerously close to the black market money that courses outside of legal systems of commerce. Discuss all of the characters' financial status, their views on money, and how money has gotten some of them into trouble.
From Eliska's hands to the Christmas ornaments to the maps, common items are imbued with uncommon worth in Risk. Discuss what exactly makes these items valuable - their history, their desirability - and the mysterious power of appraisal as it is played out in the book. Consider as well some of the fishy insurance claims that George is investigating - what does it mean to insure something that is priceless?
George briefly profits from his investigation when he sells the Christmas ornaments to a precious metals dealer, but then purges himself of the spoils. Why does George choose to do this, would you do the same? What are the risks of keeping the money?
From SoHo to Rockefeller Center to Canarsie, Risk is a virtual tour of New York City. Discuss the ways in which the city is a character in the story.
Discuss George's approach as a detective, he seems to have a very light touch. For example, he manages to hand off the ornaments and outfox the Russian mobsters with a few carefully orchestrated moves, and some lucky timing - no gunplay, no violence. In what ways are George's modest methods of handling a dangerous situation realistic? Is he perhaps easier to sympathize with than a superspy or a more hardboiled gumshoe?
At the end of Chapter 4, George's wife Carol notices on the video of Roger's death that he is about to walk toward Grand Central, but then turns around. They speculate that he was about to walk in the direction of his old life in the suburbs. The moment is haunting. How would you describe the overall tone of Risk? Does it have a certain elegiac, ruminative quality? Did you find that unusual for a mystery?
Roger, George and Mrs. Corbett each stand at the threshold between knowing and not-knowing a vital piece of information that will change their lives. Is pursing information about oneself always risky? Are we sometimes better off not knowing the full story? How would you have handled George's assignment?
How would you judge Mr. Corbett's character - surely he did not treat his wife well, but do you think he redeemed himself by supporting George from afar? Did he perhaps help George too much, was his interference not entirely a favor?
We all have an origin story - a narrative that describes where we come from - but do these sometimes mythic tales truly explain who we are? If the story changes, as it does for George, does that mean you are a different person?
Posted August 7, 2009
Manhattan insurance attorney George Young agrees to help Widow Mrs. Corbett because she was married to the late founder of the firm where he works; he always felt he owed the late Wilson Corbett for rescuing him back in the 1980s from the muddy Queens DA Office. Mrs. Corbett wants George to investigate the last few hours in the life of her son Roger before he was killed in a freak accident by a garbage truck.
George starts with a security camera video that capture the final moments. Afterward, he visits Roger's mistress Czech hand model Eliska Sedlacek to see what she can tell him. Eliska makes it clear Roger had some items that she wants; Roger's former wife placed everything in storage. George is taken aback when seemingly nonentities like an old phone book bought by Roger on eBay has garnered interest by people willing to break into joints to gain possession.
This is a terrific Manhattan Noir in which the audience knows what is happening ironically much earlier than George does; the fun is watching George change from confident successful professional lawyer to bungling unconfident amateur sleuth as he begins to put the shocking puzzle together. Filled with twists including one great spin, fans will enjoy George's efforts to learn the whole truth, nothing but the truth.
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Posted January 3, 2010
This short novel was a fun, light read. I thought it was well-written. George Young, the main character, is a lawyer who finds himself caught up in a little more danger and intrigue than he's used to. I enjoyed the dialogue and the mix of humor and mystery. I was immediately drawn in and didn't skip a word, which, to me, equals a good book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2009
Attorney George Young works for a New York insurance firm where his work is to analyze suspicious insurance claims.
He's called to the home of the widow of his company's founder. Mrs. Corbett is in ill health and facing an operation. She wants George to look into what her son, Roger, was doing prior to the time he walked into the path of an oncoming truck and was killed.
Since her husband was the one who gave George his start, he feels obligated to give this job his best effort. He learns that Roger had a girlfriend, a Czeck named Eliska Sedlacek. This woman had a relationship with a Russian man and carried items into the United States for him. The items were in the shape of ornaments and were very valuable. On the Russian's last trip, he asks Eliska to bring in a much larger quantity. She did and she hid this in Roger's apartment. We learn that the Russian man was murdered and some men have contacted Eliska and have told her that her old boyfriend took something that didn't belong to him and the men want it back.
George continues his investigation, even though he learns that he is at some risk, himself. During the search for answers, George finds something of his own history that is significant.
George Young is a sympathetic character. He's a nice guy who stays on the job and gets help from a wife that loves him and is loved by George in return. I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to others.
Posted December 11, 2010
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