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Into the Web [Mass Market Paperback]

Thomas H. Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 2004
Twenty-five years ago, an unspeakable crime was committed and Roy Slater fled--from the life he thought he wanted, from the memories he couldn't avoid, and from the devastating suspicions of those he called friends. But now that his estranged father is dying, the prodigal son has returned to confront the past--and finds himself inextricably caught up with an old flame and a new murder, one that leads him inevitably back into the twisted web of deceit and violence from which he thought he'd escaped.

In this haunting novel of literary suspense, Edgar Award-winner Thomas Cook once again delves deep into the realms of betrayal, passion and murder.

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Product Description

About the Author

Thomas Cook lives in NYC. He's the Edgar and Barry Award winning author of novels of suspense acclaimed coast-to-coast.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


There is no older story than the return of the native, and I'd always believed that had Adam returned to Eden to walk in middle age the ruined garden once again, he might have felt an odd nostalgia for his fall. And yet I felt no such nostalgia for Kingdom County. In fact, after leaving it, I'd never expected to live there again, see the suspicious look in Sheriff Porterfield's eyes each time I'd met him on the streets of Kingdom City. He'd never said a word to me, but I'd guessed his thoughts:

I know you were there.

The old sheriff had been standing on the corner only a few yards away when I'd climbed onto a bus headed for California a few days after the murders. He'd had that same accusatory look in his eyes, but he'd added a knowing grin as the bus pulled away.

I know what you did.

I'd just turned nineteen that year, a boy on his way to college, armed with a scholarship, seeking only to escape a bloody act, build a life far away from Kingdom County and in every way different from the one I'd lived there. If I'd had one determination as I'd taken my seat in the bus that day, it was that I would never again live in Kingdom County, never again endure its poverty and blighted hope, and certainly not the dark suspicions of Sheriff Wallace Porterfield.

But when my father fell ill, I had no choice but move back. With both my mother and my brother Archie gone, there was no one left to care for him. And although I had nothing in common with my father, nor even so much as a tender childhood memory of him, I couldn't let him die alone.

The fact that he was dying was not in doubt. Doc Poole had made that clear as I sat in his office a few days after my return.

"I want to know exactly what his condition is," I said.

Doc Poole leaned back in his chair. "He won't make it through the summer, Roy."

It was a stifling summer afternoon, and even as Doc Poole spoke, the two of us facing each other across his old wooden desk, I knew that a few miles away my father had already retired to his sweltering bedroom, its door sternly closed, as it always had been, my father secluded not only within that steaming space but within himself as well, a chamber just as airless and overheated as the room in which he lay.

"In the last stage of liver cancer there's really nothing to be done," Doc Poole added. "So I wouldn't waste any time on false hope."

"I never have," I said casually.

"What did Jesse tell you about his situation?"

"Just that he had cancer. He didn't say he was in the last stage of anything. He didn't even ask me to come home."

"Well, I'm glad you did," Doc Poole told me. "You can help him stay comfortable."

"I'll do what I can," I said crisply.

Keep him comfortable, that was my sole purpose in coming home, simply to care for my father's most immediate needs, nothing more. I had not come home to reconcile with him, win his approval, or confess anything. As far as I was concerned my father was a crude and ignorant man who took a bullish pride in his crudity and ignorance, wore them like badges of honor. So much so that he often seemed determined to offend me, forever sprawled in his musty, littered bedroom, wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a sleeveless undershirt, his legs spread wide, a cigarette burning down to the nub in his soiled fingers. At dinner he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and noisily gulped the last swallow of iced tea, defiantly staring at me when he set down the glass. Day and night, he watched one mindless TV comedy after another, seemingly as amused by the commercials as by the programs themselves. Even in sleep he seemed bent upon disturbing me, twisting about violently as he muttered my brother's name, Archie, Archie, as if to make it clear that my dead brother was the one he would have preferred beside him in his last days.

I might have attributed all of this spitefulness to the simple fact that my father was dying and, therefore, unhappy. But he'd always been unhappy. I couldn't remember a time when a rancorous misery hadn't afflicted him. Nor did it surprise me that in his final weeks on earth this unquiet ghost continued to goad him mercilessly, giving no quarter, determined to pursue him to the grave. There were even times when I thought I could hear it hissing through the air around him, a voice as dry as the sound of wind through fields of long-dead corn.

The origin of my father's unhappiness remained a mystery, however. He'd never spoken of his life, nor offered me the slightest entry into his shrouded past. And so I'd finally concluded that his unhappiness was like my own, something that flowed from the choices I'd made. And although our choices had been complete opposites, they'd landed us pretty much in the same boat. My father had made a bad marriage. I had chosen not to marry. He had sired two sons, and in one way or another, lost them both. I'd had no children. In both our lives, the dream of family had soured, leaving us tied cheerlessly to each other, my father yearning only for death, I yearning only to escape once again from the very place I'd fled so many years before.

But as I realized a few days after returning to Kingdom County, my yearning to escape it was even deeper now, a need, once and for all, to put its gory legacy behind me. For by then I'd learned how violence clings to whatever it touches. You can wash the blood away but not the memory of blood, not whose it was or how it had been spilled. Innocence is fragile, and violence shatters it. A simple pair of scissors once tagged Exhibit A can never cut kite string again.

The merest glance into my childhood bedroom, the sight of Archie's battered guitar still propped up in the corner, could instantly evoke the sound of gunfire, clouds of blue smoke.

My brother and I had shared that tiny room from earliest boyhood until his last night at home. We had crammed it with big plans, usually of escape, first to Kingdom City and from there to parts unknown. It was in that room I'd first determined to go to college, then later filled out the necessary application. I'd read the letter of acceptance, one that had been accompanied by the offer of a scholarship, in a kind of wild reverie, leaping onto the bed and jumping up and down while Archie looked on silently.

It was also in that room that Archie had first mentioned Gloria, and where, sometime later, he'd told me that he was in love with her. Later still, he'd mused about how the two of them would one day get married, move to Nashville, find an apartment, attend the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night. The little metal box he'd used as a bank still rested on the small wooden table by the window. I could hear the soft tinkle of coins as he counted out his savings each night, trying to calculate, in that confused and uncertain way of his, just how much money they would need to get to Nashville and survive there until he made it as a country singer.

But for all the big talk, the plan had remained fuzzy, the money scant, so that I'd never taken it seriously, nor felt any real alarm. And yet, in the end, he'd done it, or at least tried to do it, trudging from the house on a snowy December night, prowling the roads for hours, relentlessly screwing up his courage before finally pulling up beside the tall, dark hedge at 1411 County Road. Even when I imagined all that had happened after that, I made sure to keep it at a distance, like something seen from a great height. Only the mailbox returned to me as it had actually appeared that night, decked with plastic holly, green leaves, and small red berries, snow still half obscuring the family name that had been painted so ornately on its black metal side.

As for Archie, I most often saw him as a boy, eternally clothed in jeans and a white T-shirt, strumming his guitar and crooning country songs. In memory, he was everywhere. Sitting on the steps of the porch or at the kitchen table. Sometimes I glimpsed him on his bed, sitting in his underwear, idly flipping through a comic book. At other times I recalled him at seventeen, standing at the rear door, peering out into our littered backyard, his hands sunk into the pockets of his jeans, thinking no doubt of Gloria, love like a whip snapping in his mind.

I saw my dead mother in the old house too, but always as a figure crouched beside her bed, bare knees on the bare floor, hands clasped before tightly closed eyes, dreaming of a cup that could be passed, sins that could be forgiven, the salvation of good thieves.

But now, in the house where my mother died, I saw only reminders of what could not be undone. The little drawer where my father had kept his pistol. The cheap plastic frame that had once held Gloria's picture. Archie's baseball bat propped up against my father's bed. Scooter's collar nestled among the clutter at the bottom of the closet. Everything bore the mark of our family's affliction, all we'd run from, spread, the things we'd suffered and the suffering we'd caused.

And so, even during these last days of my father's life, I found myself fleeing him and the house he'd hated but never left, darting from it at every opportunity just as I had when I was a boy.

That boy seemed even further from me now than my mother or Archie. I never envisioned him in my old room, never saw him sitting reading a book on the orange sofa, dreaming of college, of moving "up north" or "out west," becoming a teacher, having a wife and children, finding a simple happiness. If I thought of him at all, it was as the ten-year-old child who'd once drawn Archie into a scheme of escape, repeatedly hammered at him about how easily we could do it--We could leave at night, get to Saddle Rock, sleep there till morning, then go on to Kingdom City, hop a train from there--so that I'd finally convinced him to join me in the effort.

That dream of escape was the one hope I'd realized from my boyhood. And so, for t...

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest suspense writers working today June 24 2004
By Larry
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Roy Slater, an English Professor teaching in a small California college, comes to Kingdom County, West Virginia to care for his dying father. He hasn't been back in twenty five years. The reason he left is not immediately apparent but it has something to do with the death of his brother and some local murders. He also left behind the love of his life, Lila who remains unmarried. Why did he leave? What ended his relationship with Lila? How and why did his brother die? What about these murders? Slowly and inexorably bits and pieces of these puzzles are revealed as the reader is strung along on a suspense high wire.
Tom Cook is back in what is probably his best book since the astounding BREAKHEART HILL and the Edgar Award winning THE CHATHAM SCHOOL AFFAIR. Once again he uses the technique of having the narrator hold the answers and only slowly letting the reader in on the secret. However, INTO THE WEB goes further than that. Roy Slater only knows some of the answers. He must find out others on his own. Therefore the novel evolves into an amateur detective novel about two thirds of the way through. Surprises await at every twist and turn. Nobody in the genre creates more tension in this manner. Characters are, as usual skillfully created and depiction of locale quite vivid. Thomas H. Cook is one of the finest writers of suspense fiction currently working. I urge you to read him today and INTO THE WEB would be an excellent place to start.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great psychological suspense thriller June 1 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When Roy Slater left Kingdom County to go to college, he vowed he would never return. Nobody, not his father or the woman he loves, wanted him. Guilt makes him return to care for his father who has only a few months left to live. Lila, his only love, lives in the poorest section of the country but he doesn't expect to see her because she wrote him a note saying she wouldn't marry him.
To temporarily get away from his father, Roy visits Sheriff Lonnie Porterfield, who is called out to look at a dead body; Roy tags along. The dead man is a tenant on Lila's land so Roy ends up seeing her and realizes he still has feelings for her even though he won't act on them. Roy's brother Archie confesses to killing his girlfriend's father and mother two decades ago and hangs himself in the cell three days later. Roy and his father believe the old sheriff Wallace Porterfield, a crooked, violent thug, knows more about the case than he lets on and they both start investigating. What Roy finds out puts him in a killing rage, and only a miracle can prevent blood from being shed.
Master storyteller Thomas H. Cook is a literary giant in the psychological suspense genre and always writes a story that enthralls the audience. INTO THE WEB is more than just a story of reworking an old crime in the hopes of getting new information; it is a story of a father and son who finally reconcile after many years of misunderstandings. The protagonist is a bit passive but he had to be written that way for the story to work.
Harriet Klausner
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - A Winner! June 24 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Let me start off by stating that Thomas H. Cook is my favorite author. I've read all his books and loved each and every one. They are haunting, lyrical and intelligently written.
"Into the Web" is no exception...It's a spellbinding psychological mystery with many unexpected twists and turns.
Basically it tells the story of Roy Slater who left his home in Kingdom County after a double murder that rocked the community and his family. Now after 20 years, returning to care for his dying father, he uncovers startling truths about the homicides, his family and the townpeople.
Thomas Cook has a magical way of weaving a story that builds interest from the very first page to a shocking and satisfying conclusion.
Along with his other books, "Into the Web" is a winner!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Into the Web June 30 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After 3 sub-par novels, (Peril, Moon over Manhattan, Taken)
Thomas Cook is back to doing what he does best. Very complex mysteries with a romantic angle to them.
I have been reading mystery novels for over 40 years and when
Thomas Cook brings his "A game" there is no one better. As ususal Mr. Cook ties up all the loose ends and finishes with a surpirse ending.`He never cheats on the ending and he makes the trip to Kingdom County worth the ride.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest suspense writers working today June 24 2004
By Larry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Roy Slater, an English Professor teaching in a small California college, comes to Kingdom County, West Virginia to care for his dying father. He hasn't been back in twenty five years. The reason he left is not immediately apparent but it has something to do with the death of his brother and some local murders. He also left behind the love of his life, Lila who remains unmarried. Why did he leave? What ended his relationship with Lila? How and why did his brother die? What about these murders? Slowly and inexorably bits and pieces of these puzzles are revealed as the reader is strung along on a suspense high wire.
Tom Cook is back in what is probably his best book since the astounding BREAKHEART HILL and the Edgar Award winning THE CHATHAM SCHOOL AFFAIR. Once again he uses the technique of having the narrator hold the answers and only slowly letting the reader in on the secret. However, INTO THE WEB goes further than that. Roy Slater only knows some of the answers. He must find out others on his own. Therefore the novel evolves into an amateur detective novel about two thirds of the way through. Surprises await at every twist and turn. Nobody in the genre creates more tension in this manner. Characters are, as usual skillfully created and depiction of locale quite vivid. Thomas H. Cook is one of the finest writers of suspense fiction currently working. I urge you to read him today and INTO THE WEB would be an excellent place to start.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMPELLING MYSTERY AND FAMILY SECRETS Aug. 6 2004
By Michael Butts - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Few writers are as good as Cook when it comes to mysteries that involve journeying back to the past and finding hidden skeletons. INTO THE WEB is Cook at his finest in narrative, characterization, with a few surprises thrown in.

Roy Slater returns to his West Virginia home after a twenty year absence. He's come back to take care of his father, who is dying of cancer. The father is an embittered, angry, and impersonal man---one wonders why anyone would come back to nurse him. But to Cook's credit, we find there's more than meets the eye in this relationship.

Years before, Roy's brother Archie hung himself in a jail cell after apparently murdering the parents of the girl he was planning to run away to Nashville with. Roy has his own dark secrets and guilt about that night, and about Archie's subsequent suicide.

Sheriff Warren Porterfield is portrayed almost as a mythological giant, a man who got his way in the county and nobody stood in his way. His son, Lonnie, is now the sheriff and he's a carbon copy of his dad.

In investigating what really happened that night, Roy finds himself facing his long lost love, Lila, who said she never wanted him to come back, and to face his father's quest for vengeance...and more.

Roy and Jessie Slater's characters are painfully well-written, and by the end of the novel, Cook has given us two very different people, and didn't cheat to get that effect.

The truth about that night and subsequent occurrences propel Roy and his father into a deadly finale.

Gripping and quite good.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - A Winner! June 24 2004
By GrandmaBetty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Let me start off by stating that Thomas H. Cook is my favorite author. I've read all his books and loved each and every one. They are haunting, lyrical and intelligently written.
"Into the Web" is no exception...It's a spellbinding psychological mystery with many unexpected twists and turns.
Basically it tells the story of Roy Slater who left his home in Kingdom County after a double murder that rocked the community and his family. Now after 20 years, returning to care for his dying father, he uncovers startling truths about the homicides, his family and the townpeople.
Thomas Cook has a magical way of weaving a story that builds interest from the very first page to a shocking and satisfying conclusion.
Along with his other books, "Into the Web" is a winner!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prickly Suspense Nov. 23 2007
By Russell G. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This offering from my favorite author is another work of great writing and rich characters.

This book reads as if Roy Slater was sitting across form you, sipping coffee and spinning the tale himself. It begins with an unrelated but no less shocking death, which becomes the reason for the story. Roy is the sleuth, a suspect, and the victim. So very well written.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slowly I Opened A Vein May 27 2006
By Bonner '62 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not poorly written or badly constructed, it is just sooooo depressing. The protaganist is a prep school teacher living in an efficiency apartment in California. He comes home to try and help out while his emotionally distant and unpleasant father dies slowly of cancer in a hellhole of a Kentucky coal mining county. A county so depressed that the people probably go to Hazzard or Harlan countys to see how the rich folks live. Throw in lost love and a simple brother who died too soon and you have a recipe for a less than cheery read. It just didn't let up. Too dark for me.
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