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Red Leaves

Red Leaves

4.5 17
by Thomas H. Cook

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"Thomas Cook writes like a wounded angel, and Red Leaves is one of his masterworks."—Peter Straub

Eric Moore has a stable life in a quiet town. Then, on an ordinary night, his teenage son Keith babysits Amy Giordano, the eight-year-old daughter of a neighboring family. The next morning Amy is missing, and Eric isn't sure his son is innocent.


"Thomas Cook writes like a wounded angel, and Red Leaves is one of his masterworks."—Peter Straub

Eric Moore has a stable life in a quiet town. Then, on an ordinary night, his teenage son Keith babysits Amy Giordano, the eight-year-old daughter of a neighboring family. The next morning Amy is missing, and Eric isn't sure his son is innocent. Caught in a vortex of doubt and lies, Eric must find out what happened to Amy Giordano before his—and the community's—suspicions about Keith are proved right.

An Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel

"Red Leaves is both heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching. A family can be 'briefly held,' and yet so enduring."—New York Daily News

"[Cook is] one of the most suspenseful of crime-fiction writers . . . Readers will glimpse blurred snapshots from their own lives—and be afraid."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

"This disturbing exploration of humans' true motives . . . builds to a rapid and unexpected climax."—Newsweek

THOMAS H. COOK has been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award five times in four different categories, and won the Edgar for Best Novel for The Chatham School Affair. He lives in New York City and Cape Cod. 



Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This new imprint from Harcourt launches with a disappearance and a happy life gone awry. Edgar Award-winner Cook (The Chatham School Affair) lives in New York City and Cape Cod. Regional author appearances. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Red Leaves is one of the best novels you'll read this year—gripping, beautifully written, haunting, surprising and devastating. Thomas H. Cook has long been one of my favorite writers. Red Leaves will show you why."—Harlan Coben

"One of the most suspenseful of crime-fiction writers, [Cook] is also one of the most lyrical . . . Readers will glimpse blurred snapshots from their own lives—and be afraid."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

Product Details

ISIS Large Print Books
Publication date:
Isis Hardcover Series
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Red Leaves

By Cook, Thomas H.


Copyright © 2005 Cook, Thomas H.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0151012504


Family photos always lie.
That's what occurred to me when I left my house that final afternoon, and so I took only two.
The first was of my earliest family, when I was a son, rather than a father. In the picture, I am standing with my mother and father, along with my older brother, Warren, and my younger sister, Jenny. I am smiling, happy because I've just been accepted to a prestigious private day school. But the other smiles now strike me as false, because even then there must have been fissures in the unruffled happiness they convey, beasts lurking just beyond the firelight.
By the end of that summer, for example, my father must have known that years of bad investments and extravagant spending had surely caught up with him, that bankruptcy and its accompanying humiliations were only a few short months away. I doubt, however, that he could have envisioned the full bleakness of his final years, the retirement home where he would sit hour upon hour, peering through the lace curtains, thinking of the grand house in which we'd all once lived, another asset lost.
Despite all this, or maybe because of it, my father meets the camera with a broad and oddly blustering grin, as if the old man felt his smile could protect him from the horde of angry creditors that was already gathering for a finalassault. My mother's smile is more tentative-- weak, hesitant, like a translucent mask beneath which her true face, though blurred, is yet still visible. It is an effortful smile, the corners of her mouth lifted like heavy weights, and had I been less self-absorbed, I might have noticed its tentativeness earlier, perhaps in time to have asked the question that later repeated so insistently in my mind, What is going on in you?
But I never asked, and so the day her car went flying off Van Cortland Bridge, it never occurred to me that anything might have been on her mind other than what she planned to cook for dinner or the laundry she'd left neatly folded on all our beds that afternoon.
My brother, Warren, stands sloppily to my left. He is only fifteen, but his hair is already thinning and his belly is wide and round and droops over his belt. Even at that age, he looks curiously past his prime. He is smiling, of course, and there is no hint of any reason why he shouldn't be, though I later had to wonder what fears might even then have begun to surface, the sense that certain already-planted seeds would bear grim fruit.
Finally, there is Jenny, so beautiful that even at seven she turned heads when she came into a room. Adorable, Warren always called her. He'd stroke her hair or sometimes simply look at her admiringly. Adorable, he'd say. And she was. But she was also quick and knowing, a little girl who came home from her first day at school and asked me why it was necessary for the teacher to repeat things. I told her it was because some people couldn't get it the first time. She took this in for a moment, thinking quietly, as if trying to incorporate nature's inequality within the scheme of things, calculate its human toll. "How sad," she said finally, lifting those sea blue eyes toward me, "because it's not their fault."
In this particular photograph Jenny's smile is wide and unencumbered, though in all the photographs after this one the cloud is clearly visible, the knowledge that it has already taken root in that fantastic brain of hers, microscopic at first, then no larger than a pinpoint, but growing steadily, taking things from her as it grew, her balance, her ringing speech, everything but her beauty, before it took her life.
She was the one I most often thought about after leaving my house that last afternoon. I don't know why, save that I suspected she might be able to understand things better than I could, and so I wanted to go over it all with her, trace the burning fuse, its series of explosions, seek her celestial wisdom, ask her, Do you think it had to end this way, Jenny, or might the damage have been avoided, the dead ones saved?
The evening of that final death, he said, "I'll be back before the news." Meaning, I suppose, the network news, which meant that he would be home before six-thirty. There was no hint of the ominous in what he said, or of anything sinister, no sense at all that the center had collapsed.
When I recall that day, I think of my second family, the one in which I am husband to Meredith and father to Keith, and I wonder what I might have said or done to stop the red tide that overwhelmed us. That's when I see another picture, this one of a little girl from another family, a school photograph used in a hastily distributed flyer, the little girl smiling happily below the cold black words: MISSING.
Amy Giordano.
She was the only daughter of Vince and Karen Giordano. Vince owned a modest produce market just outside the town limits. It was called Vincent's Fresh Food, and Vince dressed himself as a walking advertisement for the place. He wore green flannel pants, a green vest, and a green cap, the latter two articles festooned with the name of the store. He was a short muscular man with the look of a high school wrestler who'd let himself go, and the last time I saw him-- before the night Keith left for his house-- he was carrying a brown paper bag with six rolls of film. "My brother's family came for a week," he explained as he handed me the bag, "and his wife, she's a camera nut."
I owned a small camera and photo shop in the town's only strip mall, and the pictures Vincent Giordano left that afternoon showed two families, one large, with at least four children ranging in age from approximately four to twelve, and which had to have belonged to the visiting brother and his "camera nut" wife. The other family was small, a circle of three-- Vince, his wife, Karen, and Amy, their only daughter.
In the pictures, the two families present themselves in poses that anyone who develops family photos taken at the end of summer in a small coastal town would expect. They are lounging in lawn chairs or huddled around outdoor tables, eating burgers and hotdogs. Sometimes they sprawl on brightly colored beach towels or stand on the gangway of chartered fishing boats. They smile and seem happy and give every indication that they have nothing to hide.
I have since calculated that Vincent dropped off his six rolls of film during the last week of August, less than a month before that fateful Friday evening when he and Karen went out to dinner. Just the two of them, as he later told police. Just the two of them . . . without Amy. Copyright 2005 by Thomas H. Cook

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Excerpted from Red Leaves by Cook, Thomas H. Copyright © 2005 by Cook, Thomas H.. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

THOMAS H. COOK has been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award five times in four different categories, and won the Edgar for Best Novel for The Chatham School Affair. He lives in New York and Cape Cod.

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Red Leaves 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
buryuntime More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by this author and I am pleasantly surprised. It didn't look all that great from the description but I was wrong. The authors writing is simply amazing. And the characters were great! I was expecting the same old character stereotypes that you find in most books but this wasn't the case here. But the best thing about this book was the ending. I've never read a book with an ending as surprising as this one-- and it actually scared me it was so shocking. I'll definitely be reading more from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cook's Red Leaves kept me intrigued and excited to move further into the book with anticipation. He artistically displays each aspect of the situation of a father slowly living through the agony of losing a sense of what he knew to be true in life. Cook offers twists in the plot just as you think it is safe to retire from the book until your next reading. The parallelism between the leaves and Eric Moore's life story is perfectly depicted. Red Leaves is a great book if you are looking for a summer read that has good depth, but easily read and followed. I very much recommend for investigation lovers!
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
A mystery with as many twists and turns as a Pac Man game. And just when you think you've figured out "who done it", another twist! It's a page-turner. You just won't want to put it down. Not only entertaining, but it makes you think. Thought provoking philosophy. Moral rightousness. Not just a mindless page turner.
MollyMW More than 1 year ago
This is my first Thomas Cook novel. Read in two days. The lead character is everyman. It is a wonderful treat to find such beautiful writing amidst the sea of novels.
eoconnell More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this one and all the novels I have read of his. This story was not only suspenseful it was thrilling, touching, gutwrenching, and had a bit of tragedy in it. A sad but deeply moving story. To me this was a masterpiece!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was captivated from the first page. Mr. Cook writes in a way which does not let you put the book down. The story shows how easily circumstantial evidence becomes 'fact'. It also shows how disturbing a non-communicative family can be. When the book ended, I was NOT ready for it to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cook has such a gift with characters. He knows how to pull you in, and keep you awake until the book is finished. I'm not sure if he's to everyone's taste, but he is really good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just got Red Leaves yesterday and almost completed the book in one sitting. Cook takes his characters and focuses on family values. He shows you the life of what we consider to be a good family and then slowly starts to chip away at the protective home surrounding them by removing the shingles, taking out the windows, knocking down the walls; until all you have left is complete exposure. By doing this he shows his audience what many may take for granted and that there are no picture perfect families, there are skeletons in everybody's closet and half truths are told many times in the course of our lifetime. It is a chilling book and one of his best. I have read several of his books and while he experimented into different avenues in his previous few books this one takes him back into his pure (and now a bit wiser in my honest opinion)element. You will enjoy this book!!!
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Calebsmumma More than 1 year ago
This book sounds way better on the back than it really is. It was a fast paced book and it kept you turning the pages but once the cat is out of the bag it's like.....that's it. I could not stand the mother/wife in this book at all. I wished that the husband would have told her to take a hike. It might have been a little better plot if the wife was cheating because it sure sounded like it was going that way. If you are looking for a quick read and don't care what it is I recommend this one.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the burbs, Eric and Meredith Moore seem to live a happy life together raising their son Keith now a teenager. Neighbors Vincent and Karen Giordano are taking visiting family out so they ask Keith to baby-sit their eight year old daughter Amy, which he agrees to do. These are normal events in a quiet suburban setting.--------------- However, the next morning Eric learns that Amy is missing. The police suspect Keith of foul play. Eric and Meredith insist their son is a good kid and would never harm Amy yet deep down in his gut he at least agrees with the prevailing community opinion that Keith committed an atrocity especially as the days pass, the posters fade, and his son seems different. Eric ponders DNA as his father left the family nearly bankrupt his brother is an alcoholic his sister is dead from a brain tumor and finally his mother issuicidal. He begins to look deeper at Meredith wondering if her tree augments the worst from his with the culmination being they raised a teen killer.-------------- RED LEAVES is more of a family drama than a typical thriller as the audience observes the emotional deterioration of Eric over the course of the story line. While readers will wonder what happened to Amy, Eric¿s darkening look at his family members make the tale as his shell of middle class trust in what he loves erodes away with every gloomy thought he makes. Thomas H. Cook writes a deep dark tale with a finale that will stun readers as behind every so called perfect family lies hidden skeletons that can consume those concealing the truth from themselves and others.---------- Harriet Klausner