Mitchell Smith writes deceptively quiet, outwardly civilized thrillers about people we can identify with--people whose lives are suddenly ripped apart. He's fascinated by the way his characters react to stress, by how much pressure they can absorb before they either break or change into another kind of person.
In Reprisal, Joanna Reed, a poet and professor, is sorely tested by various demons. She battles breast cancer, and then her husband Frank, an experienced sailor, drowns in the Atlantic Ocean. Joanna tries to work out her grief and pain as she has always done, by spelunking in dangerous caves. Meanwhile, her elderly father is burned to death in his cabin in the woods--another "accident."
We quickly find out that a strange young girl named Charis--the college roommate of Joanna's daughter--is connected to the deaths. Tough and endlessly resourceful, Charis wants to destroy Joanna's life as reprisal for a past grievance. It takes the equally smart but grief-slowed Joanna some time to realize what's happening, but Smith is so good at getting into her mind and soul that we can easily forgive this small lapse. He also rewards our patience with an ending that is both terrifying and sadly inevitable. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Quaint New England beaches and disorientingly vast, scary caves are among the effective settings used by Smith (Sacrifice) in this absorbing tale of memory, murder and long-postponed revenge. Smith's sixth novel offers much suspense but little mystery, since the villain is known from the outset: she's Charis Langenberg, sexually abused at age six, who has grown up to be, at 20-something, a full-time graduate student and sociopath. Charis has staged, only days apart, the "accidental" deaths on Asconsett Island of the father and grandfather of Rebecca Reed, her teenage summer-school roommate. Joanna Reed, the novel's heroine, is Rebecca's mom and also a poet. When she arrives at Asconsett Island to grieve, she has a hard time believing the deaths were accidents. How could her husband, a skilled seaman, have drowned? Could her elderly, obsessively cautious father have died accidentally in a cabin fire? After much suspicion and several flashbacks, Rebecca herself "falls" off a dormitory roof. When her death is ruled a suicide, Joanna suffers a minor breakdown and Charis returns to Asconsett to help her recover. Will Joanna figure out who is behind the deaths, and why? Smith's prose prowess and skill with psychology and landscape offset his sometimes jerky plotting. His credibly flawed, offbeat characters and vivid descriptionsAparticularly of the underground caverns that Joanna, an avid spelunker, exploresAwill keep readers deeply involved. But Joanna's incessant introspection can be wearying. Her understanding of what's really going on, when it finally arrives, seems forced and sudden, marring what would otherwise be the gripping underground climax to a novel that, while not Mitchell's best (that's probably Stone City), is a reliable page-turner.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is the worst book that I attempted to read in about two years. The author is very wordy in telling the story. Read morePublished on June 27 2000 by readermouse
This guy is a fabulous writer, but not a great story teller. His "Joanna" is a poet, and some of her (his) poetry is quite arresting, particularly the piece about the... Read morePublished on Nov. 19 1999