The Tutorby Peter Abrahams
Master of psychological suspense Peter Abrahams returns with an ingenious tale of an ordinary family that unknowingly invites the agent of their destruction into their own home.
When Scott and Linda Gardner hire Julian Sawyer to tutor their troubled teenage son Brandon, he seems like the answer to a prayer. Capable and brilliant, Julian connects with/b>
Master of psychological suspense Peter Abrahams returns with an ingenious tale of an ordinary family that unknowingly invites the agent of their destruction into their own home.
When Scott and Linda Gardner hire Julian Sawyer to tutor their troubled teenage son Brandon, he seems like the answer to a prayer. Capable and brilliant, Julian connects with Brandon in a way neither of his parents can. He also effortlessly helps Linda to salvage a troubled business deal and gives Scott expert advice on his tennis game. Only eleven-year old Ruby—funny, curious, devoted to Sherlock Holmes—has doubts about the stranger in their midst who has so quickly become like a member of the family. But even the observant Ruby is far from understanding Julian’s true designs on the Gardners.
For Julian, the Gardners are like specimens in jars, creatures to be studied— and manipulated. Scott is a gambler with no notion of odds, festering in the shadow of his more successful brother. Linda is ambitious, hungry for the cultured stimulation Julian easily provides. Brandon is risking his future late at night in the town woods. And Ruby—well, she’s just a silly little girl. And in that miscalculation lies the Gardner family’s only possible salvation.
In The Tutor, Peter Abrahams creates a living, breathing portrait of an American family, their town, their secrets, their dreams—and a portrait just as compelling of the menace they welcome into their home. It is his most chilling, suspenseful novel to date.
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
- Random House Publishing Group
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- 4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
Linda Marx Gardner awoke from a dream and felt her husband’s erection against her hip. Not nudging it, not demanding; just there. Earlier in her marriage, or maybe more accurately very early, on predawn mornings like this, the bedroom dim and shadowy, Linda would have taken hold of Scott and started something. Those predawn somethings, their bodies still loose and heavy with sleep, would usually turn out pretty good, sometimes better than that.
Linda got out of bed. In her dream she’d been frantically erasing words from sheets of pink paper, but the words themselves were all forgotten. As she went into the bathroom, Scott made a little sound in his sleep, one of those soft grunts that indicate agreement. She had a funny thought, not like her at all: was he erasing something too?
Then she was in the shower, her appointment book opening up in her mind, time blocks dense with her neat writing. There was going to be an overrun on the Skyway account, most of it from the photography screwup, but not all. Linda tried to figure out where the rest of it came from, letting go of everything but work so completely that she jumped as she caught sight of Scott through the steamy glass, his naked back to her as he stood before the toilet. She called to him: “Can you wake Brandon?”
Scott said something she didn’t catch because of the shower’s noise, almost a roar—when they’d renovated instead of moving up from West Mill to Old Mill, they’d used nothing but the best, in this case the 10-Jet Tower from Kohler’s Body Spa collection—and when she looked again he wasn’t there. The water, hot and pounding, felt so good she could have stayed there all day. Linda turned off the shower at once.
She got out, reaching for a towel with one hand, flushing the toilet with the other. Scott always forgot, or didn’t bother, or something. Her watch, on the granite sink top—black granite streaked with midnight blue, the nicest feature in the whole house—told her she was running two or three minutes late, nothing to be all tense about. She took a deep breath.
“Bran? Bran? Bran? Bran?”
Over and over. The word penetrated Brandon’s dreams, twisted them out of shape, finally woke him.
“Brandon? You awake, buddy? It’s late.”
Brandon came awake enough to know he had the covers pulled way up, know that he was totally warm, totally fuzzy, totally unable to get up or maybe even move at all. He got one eye open, not much, just enough to peer at his father through gummy lashes. His father: towel wrapped around his waist, shaving cream on his face, razor dripping in his hand.
“I’m really not—”
“Forget it, Brandon. You’re going to school.”
“I feel like shit.”
“You’re going. And watch your language.”
Brandon didn’t say anything.
“Show a little life. Sit up or something. Don’t make me come back here.”
“All right, all right,” Brandon said, but the only thing moving was that one eyelid, closing back down.
“And this room is really getting out of hand.”
Brandon, almost asleep, barely caught that last bit. The inner fuzziness repaired itself quickly, knitting up the little hole poked through by his father and then some.
* * *
A cut-glass prism dangled in the window of the bedroom across the hall from Brandon, a window that always caught the first light. As Brandon sank back into deep sleep, the sun blinked up through the bare tree limbs out back, sending a ray through the prism. A tiny rainbow instantly printed itself on the calendar hanging on the opposite wall, and not only that, but precisely on a special square, the one with the birthday cake drawn inside, eleven flame-tipped candles burning on top.
That rainbow, quivering slightly on her upcoming birthday, was the first thing Ruby saw when she opened her eyes. She held her breath. This was proof of God’s existence. That was her first thought. She’d barely begun to deal with it, and its backpack—that’s how some thoughts were, they carried backpacks—that God took a personal interest in her, Aruba Nicole Marx Gardner, before her mind got going with the facts: sun, east window, prism, a rainbow that had to land somewhere, coincidence. That was the way Sherlock Holmes would see it, and she respected Sherlock Holmes more than anyone on earth. Didn’t love him—Dr. Watson was the lovable one—but respected him.
Still, coincidence could be tricky. Take that time she’d been eating a baloney sandwich and reading a story about a frog, she must have been four, when she’d suddenly puked all over the place, including on Brandon beside her in the backseat, frog and baloney getting all mixed up in some way. That was how she saw it, and hadn’t touched baloney since. But she could hear Sherlock Holmes: “A long car trip and a winding road? One could produce the same result with peanut butter and a penguin.” Elementary, my dear Ruby.
The rainbow moved on, sliding off her birthday, off the calendar, ballooning along the wall, warping around the corner of her open closet, vanishing in the shadows within. The spinning earth did that, stuck the rainbow in her closet. There would be lots of backpacks to that thought, but Ruby didn’t get to them. Some commotion kicked up down the hall, only the sharp notes getting though her door, like when one earphone conks out.
“Scott? Didn’t I ask you to get Brandon up?”
“Well he isn’t, as usual, and it’s five after seven. Brandon, get up now.”
Then came sounds of movement, and Bran yelled, “Fuck. Don’t fuckin’ do that,” in that deep new voice of his, ragged at the edges, that vibrated the walls, and Ruby knew that Mom had ripped the covers off him, which always worked. The sounds that followed—Bran getting up, banging around in his room, crossing the hall to the bathroom they shared, turning on the shower—faded as Ruby took The Complete Sherlock Holmes off her bedside table and found her place: “The Speckled Band.” Just from the title, she knew she was going to like it.
Speckled. A word she’d never spoken. She tried it out loud for the first time. “Speckled. Speckled.” Her stuffed animals watched in silence from their perches on bookshelves. A strange word, with a kind of power, if that made sense, and maybe not power completely for the good. Freckled was on the good side, heckled a bit nasty, speckled different in some way she didn’t know. The garage door opened under her room and her dad’s old Triumph rumbled out, sounds that were far, far away. I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional investigations, and in admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis, with which he unravelled the problems which were submitted to him.
Yes, that was it, what was so special about him. As Ruby read, her room went still, began to lose its physical properties, became less solid. The bachelor lodgings at 221-B Baker Street went the other way. Ruby could almost hear the crackle of the fire Mrs. Hudson had had the good sense to light, could almost—
“Ruby! Ruby! Ruby, for God’s sake!”
“I called you six times.” Mom, probably dressed for work, probably standing at the top of the stairs, that impatient look on her face, when the up-and-down line between her eyebrows appeared. “Are you up?”
“Don’t forget tennis after school, sweetheart.” Just from the change of tone, Ruby knew the up-and-down line had smoothed itself out. “See you tonight.” Mom’s voice trailed away as she went down the stairs.
Maybe not loud enough, because there was no reply. Then Mom was backing out of the garage, lurching just a bit as usual, tires squeaking on the cement floor. The garage door closed—a long whine ending in a thump—and the sound of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, smoother than the Triumph and much less interesting, faded and faded to nothing. Sherlock Holmes deduced from seven spatters of mud that the terrified young lady in his sitting room had had a rough ride in a dogcart. A car honked on the street—Brandon’s ride. The terrified young lady was going mad from fear.
Linda was dictating a memo about the Skyway account into her digital organizer when her cell rang. Deborah, her sister-in-law, married to Scott’s brother, Tom—Linda always caught her breath for a moment when Deborah called. She was excited about something. Linda could hear it just in the way she said, “Hi.”
“Are you at work yet?”
“Stuck in traffic.”
“Me too.” Pause, but not a long one. “Did you get Brandon’s results?”
“I thought they weren’t coming till next week.”
“That’s if you wait for the mail,” Deborah said. “There’s a number to call as of seven this morning. You just need a credit card and patience—it took me twenty minutes to get through.” Linda’s dashboard clock read 7:32.
“So you got Sam’s results?” she said. Sam, Brandon’s first cousin, same age.
“Fifteen forty.” The volume of Deborah’s voice went way up, almost an explosion, like some spike caused by a change in atmospheric conditions. Linda held the phone away from her ear.
“Is that good?”
“Have you forgotten? It’s out of sixteen hundred, Linda. Sam’s in the ninety-ninth percentile.” Somehow she had forgotten; now it all came back. “That’s great,” Linda said, stop-and-go on the exit ramp. The homeless guy who worked this spot stared through her window, rattling his Dunkin’ Donuts cup. It all came back, including her own score, and she added, “Wow.”
“Thanks,” said Deborah. “We kind of expected something good because of his PSAT—they track pretty closely—but still. Some kids do get sixteen hundred, of course, but we probably won’t have him retake it. With his tennis and community ser—” She stopped herself. “Anyway, here’s the number. Good luck.”
Linda tried the number. Busy, and it stayed busy until she was about to enter the parking garage under the building, a cellular dead zone. That was when she got through. Linda pulled over to the side, her foot on the brake, the car in gear. Someone honked. Linda followed the automated menu on the other end, her heart suddenly racing. She needed Brandon’s social security number, which she had in her organizer, and a Visa or MasterCard number and expiration date, which she had in her head. It cost thirteen dollars. There was a pause, a long one, during which she found she’d actually broken into a sweat, and then the digital voice uttered Brandon’s numbers: “Verbal—five hundred ten. Math—five hundred eighty.”
Linda clicked off and, as soon as she had done so, began to doubt she’d heard right. Five hundred ten? Five hundred eighty? That would be what—1090 on the SAT? Impossible. Brandon was a good student, almost always got A’s and B’s. Those digital voices were sometimes hard to understand—they tended not to emphasize the syllables a normal human being would. Maybe it had been 610 and 680. That would be 1290, the exact score she’d had years before. She didn’t think of herself as smarter than Brandon. It must have been 1290.
Meet the Author
Peter Abrahams is the author of eleven previous novels, including Last of the Dixie Heroes, Crying Wolf, A Perfect Crime, The Fan, and Lights Out, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for best novel. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife and four children. Visit his Web site at www.PeterAbrahams.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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....Peter Abrahams has written a book with a plot that grabs the reader on the first page and doesn't let go! A brilliant and charming sociopath insinuates himself into the life of an American family as the teenage boy's tutor. Unknown to the family, he has his own reasons for wanting to 'help' the family. Though I could have done without the author's occasional penchant for grossing out the reader, this was a book that was VERY difficult to stop once begun. Hands-down, the most delicious character in the book is Ruby, the precocious and hilarious would-be detective and the family's best bet for outsmarting the evil tutor Justin. She brings much-needed comic relief into a tale that could be grim in the telling.
When Brandon Gardner scores poorly on his SAT exam, his parents get him a tutor through a reputable agency. Julian seems like a nice person and quickly establishes a rapport with Brandon and the youngster¿s sister Ruby. The adults are very impressed with Julian, and Brandon and Ruby like the idea that they can trust him with their inner most secrets. Julian is creating the living epic novel and he is using the Brandons as inspirations for his material. He manipulates each one of them, using their individual weaknesses to maneuver them to perform the way he wants them to act. Some of his manipulations are mean spirited and some are criminal but all of them are targeted to destroy his host family. Peter Abrahams is a master at creating the great gothic suspense novel. His characters, especially the victims are well drawn and act like one¿s next door neighbor. The protagonist is more a caricature then a true villain because his motivation doesn¿t make sense and his actions don¿t always ring true. THE TUTOR is an bewitching story that will appeal to readers who like something unique. Harriet Klausner
*sits down* calm down...im right here
I was a little disappointed in The Tutor. I have read other books by this author (under a pseudonym) and enjoyed them immensely. This book's synopsis made it seem more interesting than it was. I found it to be very slow getting to the suspenseful part of the book. I was hoping to be riveted from the beginning and would be eagerly turning the pages to see what happened next. Unfortunately, I just found it to be mediocre and was finally captivated during the last 3 or 4 chapters. It was not poorly written, so I give it 3 stars.
The Tutor,it begins with a teenage boy,Brandon,who is having school troubles,he has a sharp little sister Ruby,and 2 workaholic parents.Until the dashing Julian arrives...he influences Brandons' grades(it's a miracle!)he helps Brandon's parents get ahead finanically and he doesn't know what to do with Ruby.We discover that Julian's an author,an author that will makes his stories match,chapter for chapter,page to page,fact to fact....It's a great read.
I was never a mystery/suspense kind of reader. However, after I read this book by chance, I think that mysteries aren't that bad at all. The plot was thorougly constructed and each characters' feelings and reactions were exceptionally recorded. This is one author who will definately make it to the 'big' time.