The Barnes & Noble Review
Known for plots that start off in a darkly humorous fashion and quickly descend into terror, Peter Abrahams (Lights Out, The Fan, The Last of the Dixie Heroes) writes edge-of-your-seat novels of obsession and violence. With his characteristic flair for complex characterizations, his suspense novel The Tutor sets a sociopath loose in a so-called normal American family with gripping and bizarre consequences.
Brandon Gardner is a troubled, rebellious teen skidding toward juvenile delinquency. When he scores low on his SATs, his parents hire handsome, perceptive, refined tutor Julian Sawyer to help Brandon get his act together. They are quickly pleased with the results, and before they know it, Julian is helping them overcome their own disappointments in life, as well.
Only Brandon's precocious 11-year-old sister, Ruby -- a major Sherlock Holmes fan -- suspects that everything is not as it appears. Julian is writing a novel and using the Gardners as test characters he can manipulate, invading their lives and discovering secrets simply so he can demolish each member in turn. Telling lies and leaving false evidence of drug use about the house, he begins to set the family members at odds with one another; offering phony stock tips, he attempts to destroy their financial stability; soon, he also involves the police by making anonymous complaints....
Abrahams is wonderfully adept at building psychological thrills. His narrative voice is supple and inviting, and the tension he creates leaves you uncertain where reality truly lies. The protagonists are all delightfully eccentric, sympathetic, and amusing. In The Tutor Abrahams has written not only a masterwork of suspense but also one of the most emotionally elaborate, witty, and heartfelt novels of his career. This is an innovative, disturbing, compelling tale that will entangle you in its taut web. Tom Piccirilli
Remember Norman Bates, the cyber-creep from Hitchcock's Psycho? Julian Sawyer, the title character in Abrahams's latest suspense yarn, is clearly cut from the same cloth a creep in sheep's clothing. Once again this author finds menace in dailiness, as he creates a scenario that's firmly grounded in real life, but which becomes increasingly (and fascinatingly) skewed Leave It to Beaver meets I Know What You Did Last Summer. Things begin routinely enough when Linda and Scott Gardner hire Julian to improve the less-than-acceptable SAT scores of their teenage son, Brandon. But before you can say "just like Norman Bates," the seemingly affable, helpful Julian earns the Gardners' trust and subtly exploits each family member's weakness in an attempt to topple their suburban house of cards. While Abrahams slowly ratchets up the tension, readers will discover that professional backstabbing, financial ruin and even murder are all within the scope of this tutor's lesson plans. As usual, the author's ear for the diverse details of everyday life is sharp; indeed, our empathy with these characters' recognizable quirks cleverly serves as a sort of buffer against the sinister goings-on until it's nearly too late. Though all the characters here are deftly drawn (even Zippy, the Gardners' pooch, demonstrates an endearing personality in a brief, nonspeaking role), one merits special mention: not only is the immensely precocious Ruby Gardner passionate about Sherlock Holmes and anything colored blue and yellow, but she's wise well beyond her 11 years and almost smart enough to outfox Julian. Put it this way: if The Tutor were a TV show, Ruby would be spun off into her own series in a Hollywood minute. (July) Forecast: Parents bemoaning prep course costs will enjoy seeing their darkest imaginings enacted, and fans will be snagged by sample chapters in mass market editions of Last of the Dixie Heroes, The Fan and Lights Out. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Frothy as a double latte with extra foam, Heller's latest romantic satire (after Female Intelligence) playfully follows the misadventures of Elizabeth Baskin, a dissatisfied wife searching for a magic potion to revitalize her husband, Roger, only to discover that quick fixes can be disastrous. She's a finicky hotel field inspector spy for AMLP, America's Most Luxurious Properties, who's almost ready to downgrade her own marriage as uninhabitable. Roger, an overworked real estate lawyer, has developed a paunch, a bald spot and a penchant for going to bed at 11 instead of making love till dawn. He drools and drops crumbs everywhere when he eats, and she yearns for the old romance of their first meeting when he rescued her from a breakdown on the "dreaded 405," a Southern California freeway. Brenda, who's Elizabeth's well-meaning sister and a celebrity-obsessed journalist, suggests Dr. Gordon Farkus, a Beverly Hills "specialist in life enhancement." Elizabeth buys into the trendy hocus-pocus and purchases a "stud stimulant" to drop into her hubby's fresh-squeezed orange juice, but in her eagerness to rev up Rog, she overdoses him and suddenly her sweet but dull husband becomes a sexy but terribly self-absorbed hunk no woman can resist. Mortified by the havoc she's wrought, Elizabeth decides to ask for the antidote, only to discover the notorious "life enhancer" has split town. Featuring fun-filled shenanigans played out against L.A. area and resort backdrops, not to mention some rugged adventures on nearby Mt. Baldy, the novel zips along like the latest issue of People and packs the punch of a big bite of pink cotton candy good for a sticky smile on a lazy afternoon. Agent, Ellen Levine. Author tour. (Feb. 11) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Abrahams (Last of the Dixie Heroes) is in great form with this psychological thriller featuring a suburban family and its deranged tutor/confidant. When Brandon Gardner lets his school work slip and does poorly on the SATs, his parents hire a tutor. Coming with excellent credentials from a local tutoring service, Julian Sawyer does a wonderful job; he really seems to connect with Brandon, becoming his friend and mentor. The family soon embraces Julian, who in turn gives business advice to Brandon's mom and stock tips to his dad. Eleven-year-old Ruby is the only family member Julian doesn't quite win over, for she senses that he has another agenda. What the Gardners don't know is that Julian is also working on his new creation, a sort of true-life performance novel based on the family's reaction to his phony stock tips, betrayal of secrets, and attempts to get Brandon arrested for drug dealing. Ruby's reading of Sherlock Holmes and the refusal of those whom Julian considers his "characters" to act exactly the way he wants them to keep thwarting him and make this a fun read throughout. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/02.] Patrick Wall, University City P.L., MO Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Hired by Scott and Linda Gardner to help their teenage son, Brandon, improve his SAT scores, Julian Sawyer quickly makes himself indispensable to the family. Only Ruby (Aruba Nicole Marx Gardner), 11, a precocious Sherlock Holmes devotee, begins to suspect that the tutor has sinister intent. The Gardners are upwardly mobile, middle-class people concerned with an Ivy League college acceptance for their only son. Scott, in business with his brother, suffers from a sibling inferiority complex, exacerbated by the success Tom's son has had with the SATs and tennis competitions. Linda, concerned with success at her job, baffled by her son's surliness, and frazzled by the whirl of family pressure, is a perfect target for the oh-so-capable Julian. Both parents wrestle with long-standing guilt and grief over the death of their firstborn son. Brandon is acting out, rebelling against pressures he really can't define. All three individuals are like lab animals to Julian; he experiments with their responses by subtly altering their environments. Ruby seems beyond his machinations and understanding and proves to be a worthy, capable adversary in this lethal duel of wits, as she follows clues in true Holmesian fashion. Reading this novel is a compelling roller-coaster ride-one just can't get off until it's over. Teens will enjoy the fast pace, the absorbing foray into deadly mind games, and the valiant heroine.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
An insidious tutor affects the lives of a dysfunctional family, in this sharply written psychological suspense. With details as exact as fingerprints, author Abrahams (Last of the Dixie Heroes) will convince readers that they've never encountered a suburban family this recognizable. There's father Scott Gardner, restless over a disappointing career, and wife Linda, fretting over their teenaged son Brandon, and with good reason. Scrappy and rebellious, Brandon flags his SAT's, runs with the wrong kids, and flirts with drugs. In contrast, 11-year-old Ruby, keen and precocious, seems the only happy family member. Linda insists on hiring tutor Julian Sawyer to help Brandon get into an Ivy League school. Smooth, handsome, and almost clairvoyant, Julian snaps Brandon out of his stupor, shows Scott how to beat his rival brother at tennis, and helps Ruby sidestep a family scrape. But Ruby, with a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in hand, is unsettled by details of the Gardners' daily life that won't connect. A jacket Brandon swears he left at school appears in the hallway at home, crack vials sewn into its lining. Then there's an anonymous complaint, phoned in to the police, that brings more trouble for Brandon. Ruby's suspicions correctly converge on Julian. The writer as Nietzschean monster, Julian secretly works (by candlelight) on a poetic novel about the Gardners, struggling to align fact with fancy. In real life, he manipulates them further by luring Scott into a stock venture that will sink the family finances. But never fear, the charming Ruby is afoot, determined to learn exactly what Julian is up to, and, in a predictable close, Julian responds with sadistic, destructive violence. Even so, his tutoring has clearly worked wonders with the Gardners. The familiar laced with lingering irony.
From the Publisher
“Ludlum is light years beyond his literary competition in piling plot twist upon plot twist, until the mesmerized reader is held captive...[He] dominates the field in strong, tightly plotted, adventure-drenched thrillers. Ludlum pulls out all the stops and dazzles his readers.” Chicago Tribune
“Ludlum stuffs more surprises into his novels than any other six pack of thriller writers combined.” The New York Times
“Reading a Ludlum novel is like watching a James Bond film.” Entertainment Weekly
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“Robert Ludlum is the master of gripping, fast-moving intrigue. He is unsurpassed at weaving a tapestry of stunningly diverse figures, then assembling them in a sequence so gripping that the reader's attention never wavers.” The Daily Oklahoman
“Don't ever begin a Ludlum novel if you have to go to work the next day.” Chicago Sun-Times
“If a Pulitzer Prize were awarded for escapist fiction, Robert Ludlum undoubtedly would have won it. Ten times over.” Mobile Register
“An exciting medical-military thriller that moves at a rapid pace to its climax...an exciting new series.” Midwest Book Review
“A pop hit...that should bounce right up the bestseller lists.” Kirkus Reviews
“Gripping...robust writing and a breakneck pace.” Boston Herald
Read an Excerpt
Monday, May 5
The first warm winds of spring gusted along Paris's narrow back streets and broad boulevards, calling winter-weary residents out into the night. They thronged the sidewalks, strolling, linking arms, filling the chairs around outdoor cafe tables, everywhere smiling and chatting. Even the tourists stopped complaining-this was the enchanting Paris promised in their travel guides.
Occupied with their glasses of vin ordinaire under the stars, the spring celebrators on the bustling rue de Vaugirard did not notice the large black Renault van with darkened windows that left the busy street for the boulevard Pasteur. The van circled around the block, down the rue du Dr Roux, and at last entered the quiet rue des Volontaires, where the only action was of a young couple kissing in a recessed doorway.
The black van rolled to a stop outside L'Institut Pasteur, cut its engine, and turned off its headlights. It remained there, silent, until the young couple, oblivious in their bliss, disappeared inside a building across the street.
The van's doors clicked open, and four figures emerged clothed completely in black, their faces hidden behind balaclavas. Carrying compact Uzi submachine guns and wearing backpacks, they slipped through the night, almost invisible. A figure materialized from the shadows of the Pasteur Institute and guided them onto the grounds, while the street behind them remained quiet, deserted.
Out on the rue de Vaugirard, a saxophonist had begun to play, his music throaty and mellow. The night breeze carried the music, the laughter, and the scent of spring flowers in through the open windows of the multitude of buildings at the Pasteur. The famed research center was home to more than twenty-five hundred scientists, technicians, students, and administrators, and many still labored into the night.
The intruders had not expected so much activity. On high alert, they avoided the paths, listening, watching the windows and grounds, staying close to trees and structures as the sounds of the springtime gaiety frown the rue de Vaugirard increased.
But in his laboratory, all outside activity was lost on Dr. Emile Chambord, who sat working alone at his computer keyboard on the otherwise unoccupied second floor of his building. His lab was large, as befitted one of the institute's most distinguished researchers. It boasted several prize pieces of equipment, including a robotic gene-chip reader and a scanning-tunneling microscope, which measured and moved individual atoms. But more personal and far more critical to him tonight were the files near his left elbow and, on his other side, a spiral-bound notebook, which was open to the page on which he was meticulously recording data.
His fingers paused impatiently on the keyboard, which was connected to an odd-looking apparatus that appeared to have more in common with an octopus than with IBM or Compaq. Its nerve center was contained in a temperature-controlled glass tray, and through its sides, one could see silver-blue gel packs immersed like translucent eggs in a jellied, foam-like substance. Ultra-thin tubing connected the gel packs to one another, while atop them sat a lid. Where it interfaced with the gel packs was a coated metallic plate. Above it all stood an iMac-sized machine with a complicated control panel on which lights blinked like impulsive little eyes. From this machine, more tubing sprouted, feeding into the pack array, while wires and cables connected both the tray and the machine to the keyboard, a monitor, a printer, and assorted other electronic devices.
Dr. Chambord keyboarded in commands, watched the monitor, read the dials on the iMac-sized machine, and continually checked the temperature of the gel packs in the tray. He recorded data in his notebook as he worked, until he suddenly sat back and studied the entire array. Finally, he gave an abrupt nod and typed a paragraph of what appeared to be gibberish-letters, numbers, and symbols-and activated a timer.
His foot tapped nervously, and his fingers drummed the lab bench. But in precisely twelve seconds, the printer came to life and spat out a sheet of paper. Controlling his excitement, he stopped the timer and made a note. At last he allowed himself to snatch up the printout.
As he read, he smiled. "Mais, oui."
Dr. Chambord took a deep breath and typed small clusters of commands. Sequences appeared on his screen so fast that his fingers could not keep up. He muttered inaudibly as he worked. Moments later, he tensed, leaned closer to the monitor, and whispered in French, ". . . one more . . . one . . . more . . . there!"
He laughed aloud, triumphant, and turned to look at the clock on the wall. It read 9:55 p.m. He recorded the time and stood up.
His pale face glowing, he stuffed his files and notebook into a battered briefcase and took his coat from the old-fashioned Empire wardrobe near the door. As he put on his hat, he glanced again at the clock and returned to his contraption. Still standing, he keyboarded another short series of commands, watched the screen for a time, and finally shut everything down. He walked briskly to the door, opened it onto the corridor, and, observed that it was dim and deserted. For a moment, he had a sense of foreboding.
Then he shook it off. Non, he reminded himself: This was a moment to be savored, a great achievement. Smiling broadly, he stepped into the shadowy hall. Before he could close the door, four black-clothed figures surrounded him.
Thirty minutes later, the wiry leader of the intruders stood watch as his three companions finished loading the black van on the rue des Volontaires. As soon as the side door closed, he appraised the quiet street once more and hopped into the passenger seat. He nodded to the driver, and the van glided away toward the crowded rue de Vaugirard, where it disappeared in traffic.
The lighthearted revelry on the sidewalks and in the cafes and tabacs continued. More street musicians arrived, and the vin ordinaire flowed like the Seine. Then, without warning, the building that housed Dr. Chambord's laboratory on the legendary Pasteur campus exploded in a rolling sheet of fire. The earth shook as flames seemed to burst from every window and combust up toward the black night sky in a red-and-yellow eruption of terrible heat visible for miles around. As bricks, sparks, glass, and ash rained down, the throngs on the surrounding streets screamed in terror and ran for shelter.
Copyright 2002 by Myn Pyn LLC