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by Mike Nichols

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Editorial Reviews

St. Petersburg Times
A swift, enjoyable mystery — a definite page turner right up until the end.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A tightly constructed plot, empathetic characters, a lively pace. . . a good, entertaining mystery.
Publishers Weekly
"That is what I want to tell you. That, here, now, with what follows, is what I need you to know." Readers tantalized by those sentences may come away from this debut suspenser by a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel feeling somewhat let down. In Droughton, Minn., lawyer Sandy Cross, "a woman of uncommon gifts" and uncommon family wealth marries, beneath her station, newspaper reporter Will Dunby. When Sandy fails to return home one March night, Will discovers that her car has gone over a cliff outside of town. "It looks like a suicide attempt," says the local police chief. Was it, or was it something more sinister? While Sandy is kept alive on a respirator, a multitude of Droughton folk act out the surrounding drama. There's Dr. Moylan, whose affair with Sandy leads to his death, and Haley, a law colleague of Sandy's and ex-paramour of Will's who has an 11th-hour secret up her sleeve. And what about Billi Stroud, a 20-something female cop who's busted for a police department infraction and who may have something to do with the town "bad boy," who's gone missing? Unfortunately, Nichols's writing, despite a fair amount of dialogue, is for the most part almost reportorial in style, making it difficult for the reader to care about these characters or connect with the plot's twists and turns. He's more successful with the humanistic elements found in scenes concerning Stone Soup, a women's shelter for which Sandy provided legal counsel, as well as in the ongoing discussions between Will and Sandy's mother about euthanasia, which demonstrate a nice ear for human foibles. There's just not enough of a payoff, however, to justify this story's many disparate elements too much plotting for too little effect. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Murder, obsessive love, implacable hate, secrets, lies, and other noirish things heighten and tighten a suspenseful debut. In Droughton, a small town near Minneapolis, it was common knowledge that Will Dunby had stepped up in class when he married Sandy Cross. She could have had her pick, even Will acknowledged, but she'd reached across the tracks to pick him and, since he adored her, he was everlastingly grateful. It wasn't just that Sandy had money, though she did, in abundance, in keeping with the way she seemed to have everything: looks, brains, an innate sweetness and, Will would have sworn, an inviolable goodness, which is why it hurt so much when he found out about her affair. He found out only when Sandy told him, explaining also that it was over but not telling him why it had had to begin, insisting that she herself could only guess wildly. After a rocky patch, the couple reconciled, and on the night of the accident Will had reason to believe the marriage had been redeemed. Accident? Well, that's what Will thought it was on first learning that Sandy's car had gone over a bluff into the river, but the police were convinced-and then Will was, too-that the plunge had been intentional. But why? Shaken, dismayed, Will asked the question repeatedly, deciding at length he had no choice but to widen his search for answers. As Sandy lingered, comatose, Will investigated, but the more he discovered the more he realized that his wife had been a mystery. Not only to him, but to others as well, some who loved her, some who hated her, and one who did both. A few plot-holes here and there, but on balance a promising performance, reminiscent, in interesting ways, of Father Noir's (James M.Cain's) Double Indemnity. Film rights to Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.72(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was ten degrees outside, and I wore nothing on my feet but socks and an old pair of loafers that had a small hole in them. I had no hat or gloves, just an old, threadbare sport coat, clutched together at the lapels as I ran. My toes were numb already by the time I'd stumbled halfway up the river. My ears, my fingers, the flesh on my checks, were all gone, too, as if they'd somehow hardened and become separate from the rest of me.

The secret, of course, is to strive for oblivion. There can be some real comfort in that.

It's only if you choose to make it back to the warmth that you pay for the unfeeling.

It took me only minutes, gasping and wheezing for breath, to reach the spot in the river immediately underneath the small clearing in the woods where much of Sandy's family is buried. From the middle of the frozen river, I could see, in the distance as I ran past, the top of an ornate monument that marked some of the graves.

Her great-great-grandparents were there, under an epitaph that had already faded. Near them, under more modest stones, were great-uncles and far-removed aunts, Sandy's grandparents, and, already, some distant cousins, too.

Last in line, unseen from the river though I knew it was there, sat the small, dark, polished gravestone of Sandy's father. He was only fifty-nine years old when he went, and Elizabeth, who is Sandy's mother and a practical and committed sort, put her name on that stone as well. Sandy's own plot, empty and covered still in snow, was ten feet away, just off to one side.

Sandy and I were different. I grew up in a little bungalow with two brothers I no longer know, and parents whose graves I cannot bear to see. She, on the other hand, made her own private procession beside that same river and to her father's stone almost each and every day. An only child who grew up alone and in affluence, she kept him with her, drew him in; just as he drew her to him as well.

I knew of Sandy when I was young, as almost any Catholic boy who lived in Droughton and went to her church would. She was a child of privilege dressed in Sunday finery who seemed part of the bygone ritual of another age. I think now, especially now, that I loved her long before I met her and there was a time, I know, when she felt of me just the same.

Do you find that romantic? I once considered it that way myself, evidence of some ethereal bond or fate. I think I thought it even as I ran to her that night. Today, I will confess with all that has happened, I wonder if we imagined in each other beautiful things that, in a real world, could never be conceived.

We did not date when we were young, when the differences of a few blocks and more than a few dollars were the differences of entire worlds. It was only later, after I went out with Haley, the woman who would become her law partner, that we met formally at all.

For me, the attraction was instantaneous, almost to the point of cliché, the kind of thing that quickly obliterates one's past. In Sandy I saw all the things I'd never known: unbridled confidence, intelligence, compassion, a sophisticated sort of beauty -- things that penury, I thought, had robbed from the less fortunate. That it was all interspersed with periods of deep depression and self-recrimination only made it all the more mysterious.

Sandy, like generations of Crosses before her, grew up along that river in a house that was magnificent. It was a white, three-story Victorian surrounded by hundred-foot pines her great-great-grandfather had planted. The trees provided anchor and shade, Sandy often said. Stability. Succor. While all else changed and turned from one season to the next, the trees stayed still, never wavering, always green, standing sentry over the oldest and most prominent house in town.

It was a grand house to live in during the warmer months, when the French doors opened up onto a spacious terrace that overlooked the green river valley below. In the spring and summer the sounds of lumbering barges wafted up with the smells of lilac bushes and freshly mowed grass.

Like all serious homes in this part of the world, however, the Cross House was built for winter. It was then, when the solid workmanship and stately efficiency was left bare, unmitigated by the burgeoning shrubbery and manicured lawns, that she was at her best. Built long before the invention of fuel-efficient furnaces and double-paned thermal windows, she was dominated by fireplaces. Not small, ornamental fireplaces like the ones in the newer jerry-built houses on the south side, but fireplaces with character and purpose. The one in the living room was large enough for a full-grown man to walk into without bowing his head. Others -- in the study, the bedrooms, even the kitchen -- were smaller, but intricate in detail.

We were married not long after Sandy graduated from law school and, because her father died within a week of the ceremony, immediately returned home from our honeymoon. Until then, I had gotten by on a bartending job at a local microbrewery, serving pale ales and martinis to some of the same kids I had grown up with and telling myself it would be foolish to take a real job in a place where I had never been certain I wanted to settle down.

After the funeral all that changed. Sandy helped her mother with the estate and took a position in the local public defender's office. I, uncertain what else to do, took a...

The Waking. Copyright © by Mike Nichols. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Waking 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I felt as though the author was struggling to put a story together. I always finish a book even if I don't like it, but this is one I wished I'd put down and walked away from. The title was very misleading unless someone wants to tell me what 'The Waking' meant. It certainly wasn't the way it ended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the catching plot line through the twist and turns, the story of Will Dunby and Sandy Cross will keep you turning the pages. An exceptional debut novel from an insightful author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sandy Cross is a beautiful wealthy defense attorney who works mainly with the underprivileged in Droughton. Her husband Will is a general reporter at the local paper, a job that totally satisfies him. Although their idyllic marriage hits a rough spot when Sandy guiltily confessed her infidelity to Will, they manage to move past it and are now planning on having a child together.

One night when Sandy is late getting home Will has a premonition that something is drastically wrong. He calls the police and later discovers that Sandy deliberately drove her car off a cliff. She was thrown from the car and because of the intensive brain damage lapsed into a deep coma that the doctors think she will survive. Her suicide attempt sets off a chain reaction of events that will lead to the arrest and conviction of an innocent woman, Sandy¿s client and friend Billi Stradi. As a result of this murder conviction, Will never be able to look at his closest friends the same way again.

From the very first page of this story, readers know that the events that transpire in this book are not as straight forward as they appear. What keeps readers eagerly turning the pages is that they don¿t know who actually perpetrated these events and what part Will played in the days following his learning of his wife¿s infidelity. THE WAKING is an inspired and thought provoking thriller written by an author who has a unique perspective on the human race.

Harriet Klausner