Rachel Monette arrives home to a scene of unspeakable violence: Her French-born husband, Dan, is dead—the victim of a savage stabbing—and her five-year-old son is missing. A neighbor claims she saw a rabbi taking Adam away. But there are no synagogues in Williamstown.
The only clue is a letter Rachel finds in Dan’s safety deposit box. Written in 1942, it’s about the reassignment of three German soldiers to a place called Camp Siegfried in the supposedly unoccupied western part of North Africa. Convinced that the murder and abduction are related to a book Dan recently completed about German-occupied countries during World War II, Rachel travels to North Africa and then on to Israel, where a mass murderer hiding in plain sight is determined to keep the horrors of the past buried forever.
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About the Author
Abrahams lives on Cape Cod with his family. Visit his website: www.spencequinn.com
Read an Excerpt
The Fury of Rachel Monette
By Peter Abrahams, Spencer Quinn
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1980 Peter Abrahams
All rights reserved.
Outside it was still dark. Snow was falling heavily. The individual flakes seemed bigger than usual and they descended in dense hordes as if they were in a hurry to get the driveways blocked before anyone woke up. The Eskimos have more than a hundred words to describe the different kinds of snow. Rachel Monette, née Bernstein, hated them all.
With a loud click that wasn't mentioned in the brochure the clock radio signaled it was ready to talk: "... instead think of the fun you can have building snowmen with the kids. And remember folks — today is the first day of the rest of your life. Think about it. Sports, Jim?" "Right, Bob. First action last night in ..."
Rachel shut it off but it hadn't finished communicating. Its red fluorescent digits, shaped in the style computers like, were relaying the news from the fourth dimension. Six fifty-six they declared, thought about it and switched to 6:57. The black modular oblong didn't harmonize with the old New England pine furniture in the room, but try to find an antique clock radio. So few of the shoppes are making them these days.
Rachel got out of bed and stood before the full-length mirror as she did every morning. She saw a tall big-boned healthy female who in a ten-years-earlier and ten-pounds-lighter version had played some good basketball for Bryn Mawr. The strength of her nose and jaw had always kept people from calling her face pretty, but in the last few years others had begun to see in it what she had almost given up hope they would: a kind of beauty.
Rachel fought another battle with her thick dark hair until it submitted grudgingly and temporarily to the will of her comb. She pinched here and there at her flesh trying to determine what was fat and what was muscle. Deciding that the fat was hard and the muscle soft, she gave it up. Goose bumps began to roughen the texture of her skin. She poked through a pile of clothes on the floor until she found a worn terry-cloth robe. She put it on, inserted a small gold ring in each earlobe and turned to leave the room.
"I wanted to hear what happened in last night's action," her husband called from the bed.
"Tie ball game."
"After what you had to drink?"
Adam, or Adman as he often called himself, wasn't in his room. He had already made the bed, smoothing away the wrinkles on the duvet that showed woolly sheep hovering over red fences. Adam had tidy habits like his father. Parked with precision in the corner was a fleet of huge yellow trucks, ready at a moment's notice for a wildcat walkout.
She found him in the playroom at the end of the hall, building something postmodern with blocks, his tongue stuck out between his teeth. He had Scotch-taped his paintings all over the walls. When he first got the paint set he had done many versions of his parents, singly and together, or Garth. Now he was at the height of his hockey period and the gaudy uniforms of the players loomed at her from every side. He knew all their names because he and his father watched the games on television. Each figure was identified in large black letters, sometimes printed on the backs of the sweaters where they belonged, but also on the shorts, the stockings or even the blades of the sticks. Lupien, Schmautz, McIlhargey. They hooked, elbowed, speared, tripped, and slashed just as in real life.
Rachel bent down and kissed the top of his head, feeling the impossibly fine blond hair on her lips. As she carefully picked the sleep from the corner of his eyes, Garth came in and knocked the blocks all over the floor.
"Down, Garth, down."
"Don't shout at Garth, Mummy. He won't love you if you shout."
"He's got to learn."
"Then say nice Garth, nice Garth. He'll learn," said Adam, stroking the animal's tail. Garth picked up a block and trotted out the door.
Rachel looked out the window, which gave a view of the backyard, the frozen pond, and the fields beyond. The daylight had brought a slight wind which was putting the snowflakes through their paces, directing them this way and that in a fanciful choreography. They were as synchronized as the June Taylor dancers.
Rachel went downstairs to face the living room. It had borne the brunt of last night's party the way the Carolina beaches had that of Hurricane Hazel. Someone had ground chocolate into her Persian rug while winding up to pitch spaghetti into the stone fireplace. It sounded like fun but it wasn't.
Rachel had planned it as a celebration of the announcement in Paris the day before that Dan's book had won the Prix Gobert. She had remembered to invite the history faculty, the French faculty, spouses, Dan's senior students, their girlfriends and boyfriends. She had remembered to buy a case of California Chianti, to hide the good wine in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, to pick up her black dress from the cleaners, and to make two sauces for the spaghetti since some of the guests were vegetarians. She had forgotten to reckon with envy, envy of the subspecies academicus, which had arrived uninvited at the party and goaded everyone into drinking too much, laughing too much, and spilling things too much.
She had placed two copies of the book on a glass coffee table, one the English version, one the French. They looked nicely done up in their bright blue dust jackets. On the back of the English version was a photograph of Dan, his sandy hair rumpled in the breeze, wearing a plaid lumberjacket and playing with Garth. On the back of the French one he wore his glasses, a dark suit, and a sober face. It had become a minor cause célèbre in France and in other parts of Europe too, because it made some people recall what they wanted to forget and taught others things they didn't wish to learn. The Dreyfus Disease: France and the Jews 1939 to 1945. La Maladie Dreyfus: Les Juifs en France 1939 à 1945. The media loved it: two film crews had already come from Paris to interview Dan and a speaking tour of French universities was in the works. It was an excellent piece of research but she didn't understand the passion it aroused. It all seemed long ago. That bothered Dan. "You're the one who's Jewish," he had said. And she was Jewish. The way Werner von Braun was American — for official purposes. She didn't deny it, or feel badly about it, or wish to change. It wasn't that important.
Dawkins, head of French, who spoke it very correctly but with an Arkansas twang, had ferreted through the French copy querying some of the usages Dan had chosen when he did the translation. Holding the book at arm's length in case it had germs he said, "Sorry, Monette, even if a Frenchman ever had that thought he'd never express it like this. He'd turn it upside down and use the reflexive — it's the very essence of the way they see things, for Christ's sake." Ethel Dawkins, a plump, rich woman whose knowledge of French was confined to proper nouns like Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, nodded in support.
"How the hell would you know how they think?" Dan replied in a pleasant voice, sipping armagnac. He was having a great time. The success of the book made him feel invulnerable. "I was born in Paris. I was speaking French before you emerged from your backwater and heard proper English for the first time."
"Dan," Rachel said. "Don't let Garth do that." Garth was eating spaghetti off Ethel Dawkins's plate. She raised a fleshy helpless forearm in defense.
"No, Garth," Dan said in the firm voice he used on Garth. Garth lowered his head and growled. Ethel Dawkins wound some more pasta around her fork and popped it into her mouth.
"I'm grateful for my simple origins," Dawkins resumed, running a big hand through his gray crewcut. He took pride in being the last surviving male in the western world with a crewcut, a quixotic sort of achievement, like being the last dodo bird. "You people with roots in two civilizations can never intuitively grasp either. You have to analyze, analyze, analyze. It's the price that cultural mongrelization exacts."
"Bow-wow," said Dan. Garth growled sympathetically and began to tear at the laces of Dawkins's brogues. Dawkins kicked him away, not very gently. Garth looked cross and skulked behind a couch, overturning an ashtray en route.
A chubby balding boy named Andy Monteith, who was one of Dan's best students, cleared his throat. "What do the minutiae of the translation matter, compared to the content?" He had an expressive, porcine nose which now turned up to test the wind for the scent of danger. "Surely what the book says is what counts."
"Sensible boy," Dan said.
"Sensible?" said Dawkins. "Anyone who has taken grade two phenomenology knows you can't separate the two." He looked at Andy. "How did he get admitted to this college with ideas like that?" The boy blushed.
"His father donated the French building," Rachel said. "An illiterate, but he had a knack for applied phenomenology." Everyone laughed, even Dawkins.
"Okay then, Dan, in terms of the content," said Henry Gates, his heavily bearded and rather unkempt colleague in European history: "I don't see where you tackle the question of the lack of physical Jewish resistance."
"I thought Dawidowicz took care of that pretty thoroughly, Henry." He sighed. "First of all, I think people who ask that question are really asking 'Why aren't Jews tough?' like Gurkhas or something. I don't mean you, Henry — you're just asking it to bait me. But it's a wholly spurious issue. Resistance movements all require a support system — money, supplies, safe houses, weapons, pockets of public sympathy — and if those don't exist there is no resistance. You've got to have something to work with. So, what happened in France? In the majority of cases French Jews were protected. Their lives anyway, if not their property or dignity. But Jews living in France but born outside were handed to the Germans gift wrapped. A trade-off, as a sop to French pride, French sovereignty. Is that something to be proud of? Can they be proud that of the ninety thousand Jews in France who were killed, most weren't born there?"
"Easy, Dan," said Henry Gates. "I was three years old when the war started."
"That's not enough protection when you get Dan started on this subject, Henry. It's his obsession," Rachel said.
"Right you are, Rachie. Every man needs one, like a five-cent cigar." Dan held out his glass. "How about a weensy bit more?"
"Number five, Dan?"
"So who's counting?"
She poured him another. "I just don't want you to suffer any tissue damage," she said.
"Oh, it takes years and years of drinking to reach that stage," said Andy, who had the facts from family history. But Dan knew she was talking in code about erectile tissue, and he left his drink untouched.
"Jews are tough," he said when they were in bed.
"It pays in the end."
Later, with her head on his shoulder, she had thought about the book. It had been with them for a long time, almost like another child; a child that needed special attention from both of them. Now Rachel hoped that Dan would regard it as the culmination of years of work, and move on to something else. She said so as they drifted off to sleep. Dan sighed:
"I don't think I'm finished with it yet, Rachie. There's always more."
Someone, Rachel saw, had discovered the wine cache under the sink. A cigarette butt was floating in a half-full bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin, taxing her level of tolerance to mess. It was high, but it had limits.
"Dan," she called up the stairs, "come help me clean up."
"Can't. I'm engaged." That meant on the toilet. Rachel sighed and went to the phone. Mrs. Flores would take care of it.
Rachel went into the morning routine, an orderly progression which finished when she was back where she was the morning before. First, hygiene: floss teeth, expectorate blood. Brush teeth because they don't feel clean without toothpaste, no matter what the dentist says. Step into shower. Regulate water with rotating retracting swiveling control lever. Scalding. Screaming. Freezing. Scrub every square inch of skin with transparent English soap. Skip the middle of the back. Rinse. Step out. Shiver. Dry. Second, clothing: always from the bottom up. Wool socks, blue cotton long underwear, jeans. A sensible brassiere for sensible breasts. Irish sweater. Fur-lined suede boots to the knee. Third, food: her turn to make breakfast. Reheat last night's coffee. Squeeze fresh orange juice. Dan always used frozen and in that Dan failed as a nurturer. Yogurt into bowls, blueberries onto yogurt, brown sugar on Adam's blueberries. Set table in breakfast nook. Fix Adam's lunch: BLT on brown bread, sweet pickle in Saran Wrap, banana. Apple juice in thermos. Pack it in lunch box with Porky Pig on the front. Sip coffee. Look out window. See Mrs. Candy across the street open door, clutch pink gown at fat throat, stoop for newspaper, straighten with effort, reveal glimpse of white sagging thigh, close door. Fourth, departure: stuff into briefcase tapes, notes, pen, stopwatch, apple. Put on blue down jacket, leather gloves, wool headband. Open door.
Garth was relieving himself against Mrs. Candy's garage. The houses in their neighborhood near the edge of town stood about fifty yards apart but Garth seldom ventured into the wide open spaces alone, preferring a man-made environment.
In their red sweatsuits Dan and Adam were pushing at the trunk of the oak tree, stretching their calf and thigh muscles. Adam enjoyed the warm-up as much as the run.
"Limbered up, Adam?" Dan asked.
"Not yet, Daddy," Adam grunted, red in the face.
"No one goes anywhere until the driveway is cleared," said Rachel. "Shoveling is the best limbering exercise there is."
"It is not."
"It is. Bill Rodgers says so."
"He does not, Mummy." They went to fetch the shovels, too late to be of any use to the mailman, a gaunt Vermonter who was making his way with difficulty up the walk.
"You should get this walk cleared," he said, handing Rachel a letter. "The law says the mailman is not obligated to negotiate an uncleared access."
"Sorry." She took it from him. The return address said Leonine Investments, 1550 Fifth Avenue, New York. It would contain a quarterly dividend. Leonine Investments was her father's frozen fish.
Quickly the shoveling degenerated into a game which involved tossing snow high into the air and watching Garth jump at it, snapping. Rachel brushed the snow from the windshield of the little Japanese station wagon.
"You're really going in this?" she asked.
"Sure. It's what makes tough guys tough. Right, Adam?"
"Right." They leaned on their shovels.
"Okay, tough guys. Breakfast's on the table and there's fresh O.J. in the fridge." She walked over to Dan to kiss him goodbye. There were dark smudges under his eyes.
"You didn't sleep well."
An odd look surfaced in his eyes. "Not very." He lowered his voice so Adam wouldn't hear. "I even had a nightmare, if you can believe it."
"I'm not surprised, with all the booze you drank. What was it about?" "Nothing really. I'll tell you later."
"Was Tom Dawkins in it?"
He laughed. "It wasn't that scary."
She kissed him on the lips. "The run will do you good. Don't be late for school, Adam." The school was a few hundred yards away, on the road to town.
Rachel backed the car out of the drive. As she drove off she saw them in the rearview mirror, running along the road: Dan in the lead with his long-legged lope and Adam falling behind but going as quickly as his little legs would carry him, more graceful than his father. Garth stayed right beside Adam.CHAPTER 2
Rachel touched the play button and the girl said, "I gave up the baby because my father beat the shit out of me when he saw it was half black, you know?" It was a problem. Using the fast forward Rachel searched through the tape until she heard the girl saying, "It's all a load of crap no matter what the social workers tell you." With her hands on the reels Rachel slowly moved the word "crap" across the tape head, bracketing it with a grease pencil. She lay the tape in the editing block and cut along the two lines with a razor blade. She spliced the tape with a piece of adhesive, rewound to "beat the shit," isolated "shit" with the grease pencil, excised it and replaced it with "crap." "Crap" was half an inch longer than "shit": she supposed it was due to the girl's drawl. She stuck on the adhesive, rewound and heard, "... father beat the crap out of me." The intonations matched. "Crap" wasn't as strong, and it wasn't what the girl had said when Rachel held the microphone in front of her in the dingy room, but it would play in the high schools of Massachusetts and "shit" wouldn't. That's what they meant by editorial judgment.
Excerpted from The Fury of Rachel Monette by Peter Abrahams, Spencer Quinn. Copyright © 1980 Peter Abrahams. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another good one!