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The sunny autumnal day seemed perfectly ordinary. Sixteen year-old Rebecca Patton was taking a driving lesson with her instructor, Andrew Newell. A woman carrying a red handbag was walking to the comer of Grove and Third. She was stepping off the curb when she was run down by Rebecca. It happened so quickly, so inexplicably, like an accident.

On her arrival at the station house, detective Katie Logan finds a distraught but cooperative Rebecca. Newell, though, is totally out of it. He appears to be drunk. Or on drugs. He's obviously incompetent, and certainly what has now become a case of negligent homicide warrants his arrest.

Then the victim's handbag is retrieved. It identifies the dead woman as Newell's wife, and this taut story by a master at the top of his form takes a surprising and sinister turn.

  Evan Hunter