The Crime of Julian Wells

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Overview

With THE CRIME OF JULIAN WELLS, Thomas H. Cook, one of America's most acclaimed suspense writers, has written a novel in the grand tradition of the twisty, cerebral thriller. Like Eric Ambler's A COFFIN FOR DIMITRIOS and Graham Greene's THE THIRD MAN, it is a mystery of identity, or assumed identity, a journey into the maze of a mysterious life.

When famed true-crime writer Julian Wells' body if found in a boat drifting on a Montauk pond, the ...

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The Crime of Julian Wells

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Overview

With THE CRIME OF JULIAN WELLS, Thomas H. Cook, one of America's most acclaimed suspense writers, has written a novel in the grand tradition of the twisty, cerebral thriller. Like Eric Ambler's A COFFIN FOR DIMITRIOS and Graham Greene's THE THIRD MAN, it is a mystery of identity, or assumed identity, a journey into the maze of a mysterious life.

When famed true-crime writer Julian Wells' body if found in a boat drifting on a Montauk pond, the question is not how he died, but why?

The death is obviously a suicide. But why would Julian Wells have taken his own life? And was this his only crime? These are the questions that first intrigue and then obsess Philip Anders, Wells' best friend and the chief defender of both his moral and his literary legacies.

Anders' increasingly passionate and dangerous quest to answer these questions becomes a journey into a haunted life, one marked by travel, learning, achievement and adventure, a life that should have been celebrated, but whose lonely end points to terrors still unknown.

Spanning four decades and traversing three continents, THE CRIME OF JULIAN WELLS is a journey into one man's heart of darkness than ends in a blaze of light.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The suicide of unhappy true crime writer Julian Wells propels this spellbinding thriller from Edgar-winner Cook (The Quest for Anna Klein). As literary critic Philip Anders tries to piece together his closest friend’s final days, Philip discovers that Julian may have been planning to return to Argentina, where years earlier, on a visit, the pair met a young woman, Marisol, whose subsequent disappearance haunted Julian. It’s obvious that Julian never stopped searching for Marisol, and as Philip follows his trail, he wonders how much Julian really knew and whether guilt for an unknown transgression fueled his lifelong sorrow. Cook threads the narratives of Julian’s unsettling oeuvre throughout Philip’s increasingly obsessive journey to unearth the reason behind his friend’s decision to end his life. The stories of real-life criminals—from a 17th-century Hungarian countess with a penchant for torture to notorious Soviet-era serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, the subject of Julian’s last manuscript—add to the aura of unease. (Aug.)
Library Journal
When true-crime writer Julian Wells commits suicide, his lifelong friend Philip Anders can't help but think he could have done something to stop it. Anders looks for answers in his memories and in Wells's books, which chronicle some of the worst serial killers and massacres in history. But all the clues lead to a trip that Anders and Wells took to Argentina as young men. They met a guide, Marisol, who became one of the many "disappeared" in Argentina's Dirty War. Throughout, Philip has to confront the fact that he didn't really know Julian and begins to question whether he ever knew anyone at all. Cook (The Quest for Anna Klein) has a graceful writing style, with philosophical asides and allusions to classic literature, and Anders is a decent, though naive, companion on this journey. VERDICT For mystery lovers who enjoy the trail of clues, even when there isn't a huge mystery. Most readers won't be surprised by the denouement, but Cook's thoughtful writing is the real payoff here. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/12.]—Devon Thomas, DevIndexing, Chelsea, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Cook's 27th dip into his fictional characters' troubled past asks why an expatriate writer took his own life. Before he rowed out to the middle of a pond and slit his wrists, Julian Wells' most notable legacy was his shelf of meticulously researched true-crime studies of notorious serial killers. His death, however, creates a more poignant legacy for his sister Loretta, a failed actress and copy editor, and his old friend Philip Anders, a reviewer whose father, like Julian's, was a State Department functionary. Why would Julian have chosen to kill himself during a particularly quiet period of a largely uneventful life? Taking his cue from the dedication of Julian's first book--"For Philip, sole witness to my crime"--Philip retraces his friend's steps over three continents and 40 years, focusing at length on a trip the two of them took to Argentina, a rare journey that was not designed to produce background material for one of Julian's books. He recalls their friendship with Marisol Menendez, a guide to Buenos Aires who vanished into the deep shadows of the Casa Rosada during the dirty little war of the 1980s. As he interviews an activist priest, a Casa Rosada contact of his father's, and a Russian agent who earned the sobriquet the Rostov Ripper, Philip can feel himself getting closer to one of those grimly climactic epiphanies so characteristic of Cook (The Quest for Anna Klein, 2011, etc.). This time, however, the big reveal seems neither inevitable nor weighty enough to justify the weight of the portentous buildup. This sprawling update of Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios lacks the baleful focus of its model, or of the most successful of Cook's own nightmare excavations of the past. Wait till next year.
Booklist
“[Cook] knows how to spin a seductive tale.”
Booklist
Los Angeles Times
“[Cook] knows how to spin a seductive tale.”
Booklist
BookPage
“Reader Traber Burns’s mature voice is a perfect match for Philip, and he makes the most of the material.”
—Library Journal
From the Publisher
“Narrator Traber Burns is adept with the haunting material in this story. . . . Burns’s timing and pacing are all listeners need to feel the passions of the two main characters locked in this unfolding mystery.”
AudioFile

“With Traber Burns’ emotionally nuanced narration, it becomes an irresistibly engrossing audio.”
BookPage

The Barnes & Noble Review

The mystery at the heart of Thomas H. Cook's The Crime of Julian Wells emerges like the image on a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces the author dispenses, one by one, until the pattern emerges, complete and inevitable. In this elegant thriller, there are no sudden moves. Action is born of stillness and reflection while the crimes of the past, reluctantly exposed, bleed gradually but inexorably into the present.

"When the best man you'd ever known, the one you'd loved the most?trudges to a pond, climbs into a boat, rows a hundred feet out into the water, rolls up his sleeves, and cuts his wrists, are you not called upon to ask what you might have said to him in that boat, how you might have saved him?"

The dead man is Julian Wells, an American who wrote about the crimes of various mass murderers, recent and historic, from the viewpoint of their victims. The narrator is Philip Anders, a solitary academic, who is determined to find out why his lifelong friend committed suicide and now wonders what Julian meant when he dedicated his first book to "Philip, sole witness to my crime." Compelled to excavate Julian's past, Philip is drawn back to the time the two men spent together in Argentina toward the end of that country's Dirty War. Given the destination, it seems inevitable that a novel whose languid tone first echoes that of Brideshead Revisited (Julian and Philip being golden boys of a privileged class) will finally become an Argentine Heart of Darkness. The course toward horror is indeed set, and Cook, a nimble writer who can be lyrical one moment and brutal the next, navigates that course brilliantly.

Philip's chief confidant is his elderly father, an ex- State Department bureaucrat who advised and inspired Julian. Like his deceased acolyte, the old man seems haunted. He is also evasive when gently interrogated about Julian's motivations, pronouncing, "Darkness was the only thing he knew." Philip rejects this conclusion, but as he retraces Julian's steps in Europe, Russia, and Argentina he enters "a thicket of intrigue in which identities changed as well as motives." At its center is Marisol, the woman who was Julian and Philip's tour guide in Buenos Aires; the woman whose subsequent disappearance became Julian's — and is now Philip's — obsession.

Marisol was the personification of innocence. But Julian, on the day he died, told his sister that in the jungles of Argentina he had learned that "Goodness is evil's best disguise," and soon Philip is forced to question the solidity both of his political assumptions and of his lifelong affections. "Grow up, please," a retired U.S. intelligence officer tells him, and middle- aged Philip eventually does. Forced to confront barbarism, face to face, in the jungle, he returns home to a shabby truth: "It's always the little people, too small for us to see, the little, dusty people, who pay for our mistakes."

Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802126030
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

TRABER BURNS is a native of Louisiana, who began his acting career as a graduate of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.  He spent 30 years working in regional theatre, including the New York, Oregon, Alabama and Dallas Shakespeare Festivals.  After 5 years of acting in Los Angeles, he now lives in Oregon where he spends most of his time transporting his son to various activities.

THOMAS H. COOK held several jobs as teacher and book reviewer before he began writing full-time. Many of his novels have been nominated for the Edgar and other prestigious awards. He won the Edgar for The Chatham School Affair.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 220 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(54)

4 Star

(41)

3 Star

(48)

2 Star

(35)

1 Star

(42)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 220 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2013

    This 200 page free book, is long on prose and short on action

    This 200 page, free Friday book is an odd mixture of a wording style from the 1800s, set in more modern times. There is an old fashioned English novel style about it. It starts off with a description of a fifty something man commiting suicide, for an unknown reason and then goes into a discussion about the event, between the man's sister and his best friend. This book is long winded, with fancy phrasing and elaborate sentences. I found this to be off setting. The premise is good, the plot well thought out and executed, and after about five chapters, it does get better. I found it a bit depressing and felt sorry for most of the characters, having to solve the mystery of the man's death as well as moarn him. The book is well edited. Unfortunately, I can not rate it higher, as I simply did not care for the writting style. For readers, age 17-18 and up.

    AD

    23 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Anonymous

    A great mystery following the anguish and unanswered questions that come after losing someone to suicide...only following those unanswered questions only leads to more in this chilling thriller.

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 15, 2013

    This is a book for people who consider themselves to be readers.

    This is a book for people who consider themselves to be readers.  It is not for people who are uncomfortable reading sentences more than 10 words long, encountering words that they may have to look up, or those who can only follow chase scenes.  It is clearly a literary mystery/thriller that is well drawn and thought-provoking.  If this describes what you are looking for when you're reading, you'll love this one.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 8, 2013

    The story was intriguing, but really got bogged down with litera

    The story was intriguing, but really got bogged down with literary references and quote.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 6, 2013

    Good book, I wanted to keep reading this story really pulled me

    Good book, I wanted to keep reading this story really pulled me in, the overall story devilment was good and moved along at a good pace. 

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    Enjoyed thoroughly

    After reading some of the negative reviews I wasnt sure about reqading this book but am so glad that i did. It was well written and had a fantastic story.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Slow

    Very dull, plodding and boring. I kept thinking that it would eventually pick up but it never did.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2013

    The slowest and most boring book I've ever finished.!  Not sure

    The slowest and most boring book I've ever finished.!  Not sure why it's considered a thriller.  The author goes on and on about nothing important to the story. I'm being generous by giving this book 2 stars.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    Boring, overpriced and underwhelming

    The author is very talented in his selection of vocabulary and his phrasing but it wasn't enough to keep the book interesting or make you want to continue reading. The story plodded along slowly and was very clunky. I'm so happy this was a Free Friday book; it would have been a total waste of $12.96 otherwise.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 23, 2013

    I'm not sure if I "liked" this

    This is an eriudite book. It would help if you were familiar with the classics and some basic philisophical psychology in order to truely understand this book.

    Julian is the focus of the book, but Julian is dead. As quiet as he might have been in real life, he is the elephant in each scene. And, I have to admit, he is not cuddly. He's morose on his best days and naieve on his worst.

    After his death, his friend just tries to find out if anything he could have done could answer why he did it.

    For such a short book, it has a lot of substance. Much like Wells' THE THIRD MAN, you watch, you listen, you think.....but do you care? Or should you?

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    One of the best

    So very honest . Hard to put down but at the same time hard to read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    cant get into this

    Wasnt able to read beyond the first few chapters

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted July 7, 2013

    I found this story to be boring and hard to read. Could not even

    I found this story to be boring and hard to read. Could not even finish it. Maybe I will go back later when I have nothing better and try again. Until then, not interested.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 4, 2013

    Just drags on...

    Normally I will push through a slow book hoping to find some redeaming chapter, but not this one. It just drags on and on and on (you get the drift), and just did not interest me. It will remain unfinished in order to protect my sanity.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Don't Bother

    Dullest most boring book I have ever read. I got this as a 'free' Nook book. They should have paid me to take it. There is a cauctionary moral in there, but it is buried under tons of redumdant muck.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 2, 2013

    The crime of Jillian Wells

    How well do you know your best friend, you have known him all your life, so it must be pretty good, right? Ok, how far would you go for this same person? Your best friend did the most unexpected thing, he just took his own life. WHY??? Could I have stopped it?

    This book dives into these questions and you will be so surprised at the answers. The characters are so intimate with you, you will think your right there each step. This plot will pull you in so deep that you won't want to put it down. But, the book length is far too short. Take all these and wrap them together and you have an excellent read.

    Mr Cook has the ability to take those two questions and develop an excellent story with unbelievable twists and turns. I highly recommend this book for an evening of pleasurable reading. I did hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2013

    Wow!  Literary allusions!  Foreign locales!  Characters who spea

    Wow!  Literary allusions!  Foreign locales!  Characters who speak in aphorisms!  And a plot that never quite gels!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

     It was okay but I am sure I could have used the time reading so

     It was okay but I am sure I could have used the time reading something better. Ok but underwhelming. Kept waiting for the great reveal at the end, but it fizzled. 

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2013

    Good story

    This isn't really a thriller, just a good read for mature readers

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    Free Friday

    I enjoyed the author's writing style, but the plot left much to be desired. The story was filled with "turn", but none that I'd consider "twists". Also, I didn't mind the narrator speculating what would happen "if this was a novel..." the first couple of times, but it became repetitive. By the time I was finished, I was relieved to just have it over with.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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