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Sandrine's Case

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Shortlisted for the 2014 Edgar Award and Barry Award for Best Novel

Thomas H. Cook is peerless in finding the humanity behind crime. In one of his greatest novels yet, a man explores unspools the history of his fractured relationship with his wife, as he stands trial for her murder.

Samuel Madison always wondered why Sandrine chose him. He was a meek, stuffy doctorate student; she a brilliant bohemian with limitless imagination. On the ...

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Sandrine's Case

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Shortlisted for the 2014 Edgar Award and Barry Award for Best Novel

Thomas H. Cook is peerless in finding the humanity behind crime. In one of his greatest novels yet, a man explores unspools the history of his fractured relationship with his wife, as he stands trial for her murder.

Samuel Madison always wondered why Sandrine chose him. He was a meek, stuffy doctorate student; she a brilliant bohemian with limitless imagination. On the surface, their relationship seemed tranquil: jobs at the same liberal arts college, a precocious young daughter, and a home filled with art and literature. And then one night Sandrine is found dead in their bedroom from an overdose of pain medication and alcohol, and Samuel is accused of poisoning her.

As secrets about their often tumultuous marriage come to light in the courtroom, Samuel must face a town convinced of his guilt, a daughter whose faith in her father has been shaken to its core, and the truth about his wife, who never ceased being a mystery to him. Sandrine’s Case is a powerful novel about the evil that can lurk within the heart of a seemingly ordinary man, and whether love can be reawakened even after death.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this slow-burning, intricate thriller from Edgar-winner Cook (The Crime of Julian Wells), Sam Madison and his wife, Sandrine, both professors at Georgia’s Coburn College (he of literature, she of history) and parents of a grown daughter, appear to have a solid marriage. But below the surface there are problems, which culminate in Sandrine’s death from a cocktail of Demerol and vodka. While the coroner rules the death a suicide, the police suspect foul play and soon zero in on Sam as his wife’s killer. The local prosecutor is so certain of Sam’s guilt that he seeks the death penalty. In the course of the murder trial, which runs from unexpected revelations on the witness stand to torrents of legalese as the attorneys jockey for power, Sam reflects on his relationship with the brilliant, beautiful, and vexing Sandrine. Through Sam’s memories, Cook pulls off the tricky task of rendering Sandrine—a lover of ancient history, particularly Cleopatra, and the intricacies of language—as vividly as if she had never died. This crime novel, one of his best, builds to an unforeseen, but earned, climax. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
A psychological courtroom thriller from Cook (The Crime of Julian Wells, 2012, etc.). Husband and wife Sam and Sandrine Madison are both professors at Coburn College in Georgia, but one evening, Sandrine dies from an overdose of pain medications and liquor. Is it suicide or murder? Sam's strange behavior leads to his arrest, and his subsequent murder trial forms the structure of the story, told in his own words. The couple had grown apart over the years because Sandrine saw Sam as becoming increasingly indifferent and disconnected from her. Even when he learns Sandrine has Lou Gehrig's disease and will surely die, he shows little sympathy or emotional support. He holds his town of Coburn in contempt and considers his students ignoramuses unworthy of his erudition. (Do these kids even know that "unique" doesn't take an adjective?) Sam's thoughts and speech are full of literary references that further separate him from ordinary people. If he ever gets around to writing the great book he vaguely plans, he won't write it in his office--he doesn't have one of those--but in his "scriptorium." So Sam is an easy man to dislike, both for the townspeople and the reader. Maybe Sandrine committed suicide, as Sam claims. Or maybe he murdered her to escape the increasing burdens of her care, as the prosecutor wants the jury to think. Day by day, the state builds its case while the defense tries to tear it down. Sam's own memories show Sandrine's increasing frustration and rage with him, while conversations with the defense attorney reveal more of Sam's personality than the defense dares allow the jury to know. Defense and prosecution are equally skilled and devoted to winning their cases, so the trial's outcome--and the truth--are not easy to predict. A marvelous tale of human nature.
“Holsopple’s performance as Sam Madison is more than worth the price of admission.”
From the Publisher

"A consistently engaging court procedural. . . . The real treat is Cook's tender, gradual exploration of the push and pull between Samuel and Sandrine, an unlikely pair."—People (three stars)

"Cook supplely strips the courtroom thriller down to its bones and then animates it with a warm, beating heart. . . . This is a story of the mysteries of a long marriage and of a couple who might or might not be meant for each other. Cook plays with and against the conventions of the noir mystery to craft a novel deeper and richer than the genre would seem to allow."—Columbus Dispatch

Sandrine's Case is a story of love lost and rediscovered during the course of a murder trial. Who but Thomas H. Cook could blend love and death with such seamless elegance? He remains one of my favorite writers.”—Harlan Coben

"With Sandrine's Case Thomas H. Cook once again proves he's one of the very best. Here he uses the courtroom as a prism on the inner workings of life and relationships. It is gripping, moving and elegiac. This book shows a master at work."—Michael Connelly

"A mystery novel by Tom Cook is always something more, and unpredictable. It is very difficult to resist turning pages rapidly to discover the outcome of this disturbing case."—Joyce Carol Oates

“Often praised for the clarity of his prose and the sheer drive of his storytelling, [Cook] deserves a special citation for bravery. In Sandrine’s Case, he not only dares to write a novel with an unpleasant protagonist, but also makes him the narrator.”—New York Times Book Review

“Bravo to Cook for giving us a story that slowly grows with intensity and depth. . . . [An] insightful, cleverly nonlinear novel.”—Christian Science Monitor

"[A] wonderful genre-breaking novel. . . . Sandrine's Case is as good as anything written by Scott Turow and John Grisham."—Huntington News

“A remarkable piece of writing that sits right at the top of the genre.”—Deadly Pleasures

“A tender love story in the form of a tense courtroom drama, Sandrine's Case is mystery, metaphor, and morality wrapped together in a nifty package, a chance to observe grace (or treachery) under pressure. Thomas H. Cook’s elegant new novel offers all that great narrative pleasure. You’ll be baffled right up to the Wow of an ending. What a terrific story!”—Susan Isaacs, author of Compromising Positions and Goldberg Variations

“Who could write a gripping novel of tenderness and mercy—its subject a woman who might have decided to frame her husband for her own suspicious death? Thomas H. Cook has done just this. In his prime as a master storyteller, he goes from strength to strength.”—Jacqueline Mitchard, bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean

Sandrine's Case is a heart-breaking, heart-stopping love story as well as a taut, gripping courtroom drama, woven as masterfully and diabolically as a hangman's noose. Nobody does it better than Thomas H. Cook!”—Judith Kelman, bestselling author of Summer of Storms and The First Stone

Sandrine's Case brings to mind Body Heat and Presumed Innocent, those pinnacles of adultery, marriage and murder. Thomas H. Cook is at his best here as he grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go until the verdict is announced.”—Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread

“From the compelling opening to the poignant resolution, Sandrine's Case is a hauntingly beautiful and deeply moving novel that is at its core a story of a love both complex and enduring. Ingeniously conceived and elegantly written, it throbs with the suspense and insight into the human heart that we've come to expect of Thomas H. Cook.”—Anne D. LeClaire, author of Entering Normal and The Lavender Hour

“Cook is one of the finest crime writers of modern times. . . . Told in the sparest style, Sandrine gradually reveals the web of deceit that married couples can weave around each other until it threatens to suffocate them both: horrifying but hypnotizing.”—Daily Mail (UK)

“One of the best mystery novels I’ve ever read. Cook has it all. The nuanced engaging characters, the clean and subtle plot, a perfectly imagined setting, and a slow-burn pacing that makes it impossible to stop reading. . . . Don’t miss it.”—Globe and Mail (Canada)

"Vintage Cook: different, interior, another one that resists categorization."—Providence Journal

"A marvelous tale of human nature."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[A] slow-burning, intricate thriller. . . . This crime novel, one of [Cook's] best, builds to an unforeseen, but earned, climax."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Compelling . . . Cook deftly explores the question of what we truly know about the people we love—and, in reflection, what we truly know about ourselves.”—January Magazine

“[Cook’s] lyrical prose, his flawless movement back and forth in time, his utterly surprising ending, and his masterful use of suspense put Sandrine’s Case at the top of my list.”—And Sometimes She Writes. . .

Sandrine’s Case is loaded with quiet metaphor and shot through with turns of phrase that would fill a small notebook on their own. It can be read in one sitting. . . . Still, I suggest reading it slowly, taking in its nuances and perhaps even re-reading it after finishing, just to enjoy how Cook so carefully constructed it.”—

“Cook has a patented way of bringing out the deep and vulnerable heart of a character. . . . It is tenderness and kindness that mark Thomas Cook’s novels and it is evident in the beautiful Sandrine’s Case as well.”—Murder By The Book

The Bookwatch
“[A] slow-burning intricate thriller from Edgar-winner Cook. . . . One of his best.”
Publishers Weekly [HC starred review]
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802126085
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 370,148
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas H. Cook is a legendary figure in crime writing. He has been nominated for the Edgar seven times in five different categories. He is the recipient of the Best Novel Edgar for The Chatham School Affair, the Martin Beck Award of the Swedish Academy of Detection, the Herodotus Prize for Best Historical Short Story, and the Barry for Best Novel for Red Leaves. His most recent novel was the critically acclaimed The Crime of Julian Wells. He splits his time between New York City and Cape Cod.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    There have been many novels depicting, describing and analyzing

    There have been many novels depicting, describing and analyzing criminal courtroom cases. Some are narrated by lawyers, a la Grisham. Others by p.i.’s. Some even by witnesses, prosecutors or just plain old cops. Rarely has there been a novel from the point of view of the defendant, learning more about himself as the testimony unfolds. Yet that’s what this book is all about.

    The novel is a detailed analysis of a man, Sam Madison, who is charged with murdering his wife, Sandrine. The two were professors at a small college in Georgia, married for many years when she is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Apparently the prosecution believes he killed his wife to avoid watching her die slowly and having to care for her. The case is largely circumstantial, but is carefully built upon a strong series of clues about Sam, and how he changed over the years, disillusioned with life and the town in which they lived and taught and the college, and developing into a person different from the one he was when the two first met.

    The plot follows that trial, day by day, giving the author the means to develop the changes in Sam’s personality as each witness tells of observations Sandrine made to them. It proves quite a learning experience. It slowly develops toward an unexpected conclusion, unforeseen but logical. Written smoothly, it reaches the unpredictable ending to what otherwise could be a confusing but troubling case.

    Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2013

    This is the best book I have read in a long time. I could not pu

    This is the best book I have read in a long time. I could not put it down until the last last page. The story is so compelling and the characters are richly developed. I enjoyed the trial as it reveals pieces of evidence slowly throughout the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2014

    This book is simply wonderful from page 1 until the ending, Coul

    This book is simply wonderful from page 1 until the ending, Could not put down, 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2014


    Fantastic read, could not put this book down first time reading this author, would highly recommend this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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