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The Tutor [Mass Market Paperback]

Peter Abrahams
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2003
Master of psychological suspense Peter Abrahams returns with an ingenious tale of an ordinary family that unknowingly invites the agent of their destruction into their own home.

When Scott and Linda Gardner hire Julian Sawyer to tutor their troubled teenage son Brandon, he seems like the answer to a prayer. Capable and brilliant, Julian connects with Brandon in a way neither of his parents can. He also effortlessly helps Linda to salvage a troubled business deal and gives Scott expert advice on his tennis game. Only eleven-year old Ruby—funny, curious, devoted to Sherlock Holmes—has doubts about the stranger in their midst who has so quickly become like a member of the family. But even the observant Ruby is far from understanding Julian’s true designs on the Gardners.

For Julian, the Gardners are like specimens in jars, creatures to be studied— and manipulated. Scott is a gambler with no notion of odds, festering in the shadow of his more successful brother. Linda is ambitious, hungry for the cultured stimulation Julian easily provides. Brandon is risking his future late at night in the town woods. And Ruby—well, she’s just a silly little girl. And in that miscalculation lies the Gardner family’s only possible salvation.

In The Tutor, Peter Abrahams creates a living, breathing portrait of an American family, their town, their secrets, their dreams—and a portrait just as compelling of the menace they welcome into their home. It is his most chilling, suspenseful novel to date.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Remember Norman Bates, the cyber-creep from Hitchcock's Psycho? Julian Sawyer, the title character in Abrahams's latest suspense yarn, is clearly cut from the same cloth a creep in sheep's clothing. Once again this author finds menace in dailiness, as he creates a scenario that's firmly grounded in real life, but which becomes increasingly (and fascinatingly) skewed Leave It to Beaver meets I Know What You Did Last Summer. Things begin routinely enough when Linda and Scott Gardner hire Julian to improve the less-than-acceptable SAT scores of their teenage son, Brandon. But before you can say "just like Norman Bates," the seemingly affable, helpful Julian earns the Gardners' trust and subtly exploits each family member's weakness in an attempt to topple their suburban house of cards. While Abrahams slowly ratchets up the tension, readers will discover that professional backstabbing, financial ruin and even murder are all within the scope of this tutor's lesson plans. As usual, the author's ear for the diverse details of everyday life is sharp; indeed, our empathy with these characters' recognizable quirks cleverly serves as a sort of buffer against the sinister goings-on until it's nearly too late. Though all the characters here are deftly drawn (even Zippy, the Gardners' pooch, demonstrates an endearing personality in a brief, nonspeaking role), one merits special mention: not only is the immensely precocious Ruby Gardner passionate about Sherlock Holmes and anything colored blue and yellow, but she's wise well beyond her 11 years and almost smart enough to outfox Julian. Put it this way: if The Tutor were a TV show, Ruby would be spun off into her own series in a Hollywood minute.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Hired by Scott and Linda Gardner to help their teenage son, Brandon, improve his SAT scores, Julian Sawyer quickly makes himself indispensable to the family. Only Ruby (Aruba Nicole Marx Gardner), 11, a precocious Sherlock Holmes devotee, begins to suspect that the tutor has sinister intent. The Gardners are upwardly mobile, middle-class people concerned with an Ivy League college acceptance for their only son. Scott, in business with his brother, suffers from a sibling inferiority complex, exacerbated by the success Tom's son has had with the SATs and tennis competitions. Linda, concerned with success at her job, baffled by her son's surliness, and frazzled by the whirl of family pressure, is a perfect target for the oh-so-capable Julian. Both parents wrestle with long-standing guilt and grief over the death of their firstborn son. Brandon is acting out, rebelling against pressures he really can't define. All three individuals are like lab animals to Julian; he experiments with their responses by subtly altering their environments. Ruby seems beyond his machinations and understanding and proves to be a worthy, capable adversary in this lethal duel of wits, as she follows clues in true Holmesian fashion. Reading this novel is a compelling roller-coaster ride-one just can't get off until it's over. Teens will enjoy the fast pace, the absorbing foray into deadly mind games, and the valiant heroine.
Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke,
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Blown potential July 20 2004
Format:Hardcover
I'm not a big fan of books you can pick up at the train station, but this one drew me in with its quasi-literary style, as far as paperbacks go.
I have to agree that the characters in the family are mostly pretty flat, but the character of Julian was precisely the sort of misunderstood villain I like to read about. The story started off well, and like a good comic book, I found myself rooting for the bad guy, which is a good sign that either he's not a completely unrealistic bad guy, or the family is just so dull and unlikeable you actually prefer to be in the company of the villain.
After being swept into reading this book at any spare moment, I was tremendously disappointed by the ending. It seemed to me like Abrahams was on his way to writing a story that actually treats its villain with humanity for a change, but the editor got mad at the anti-heroic vagueries of such a plot, and instead ordered him to tack on a generic and uncharacteristic ending straight out of bad Hollywood where the bad guy goes crazy and the dull "innocent" family is only justified in getting rid of him.
On the positive side, the bad writing and underlying themes that even the author apparently did not catch on to served as great inspiration for my own writing, because reading this book couldn't help but make me think that audiences deserve better.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Unlikeable Characters and a Bewildering Ending Jan. 28 2004
Format:Hardcover
The Tutor is a suspenseful and scary book that was quite entertaining. Unfortunately I must admit that instead of feeling satisfied by it I can't help but be disappointed that a great plot was not developed and fleshed out with nicer characters and a more cohesive sequence of events.
In my view the characters were unlikeable, except for the charming 11-year-old Ruby. This girl basically looks after herself in every way; she cooks her own meals, locks the house up after her, travels alone on her bicycle, etc. This is completely unbelievable and makes her parents look neglectful. They regularly returned home at seven or eight in the evening without checking to make sure she'd got home from school all right or anything! Then there's Brandon, the teenage jerk who needs a tutor because he failed his SAT. To be honest I thought that Brandon was an awful parody of a teenager - he drank, smoked, did crack, skipped school, flunked his exams, had meaningless sex, listened to rap, swore constantly. After all this are we really supposed to sympathize with him? A lot of the families bad behaviour could be justified by the death of the eldest son Adam years ago, and although of course this is a terrible event, I just did not buy that the family could become so dysfunctional just because he had died.
The best bit about the story was Julian - the villain. I liked the parts of the story about him, as he was truly vile and unfeeling. The parts of the book from Ruby's point of view were great as well and very funny in places. It was these moments that kept me reading on avidly despite my vague dislike for Linda, Scott and Brandon.<P
Overall The Tutor kept me in suspense but I have no inclination to read it again (as I do with books that I like) and it leaves me with more questions than answers. My advice is read The Perfect Crime also by Peter Abrahams, which I think is a much better thriller with a great plot.
JoAnne
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Tutor Sept. 28 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I think I shall rave about this book for a little while--at least long enough to assuage the guilt over not simply giving it a five-star nod. I mean, how do you actually rate a novel that is a traditional thriller, but dares to remain understated, dares to avoid glitz, most of the way through? Ultimately, I think the author could have worked in a few more scenes of real mayhem and yet not degenerated to shlock, but since he didn't--since The Tutor is restrained, creeping terror without splatter til the late-going--I'm left trying to say it like this: for restrained, creeping terror in a domestic setting, I award the full five starrinos, but for not finding a way to work in a bit more splatter, I deduct one star, leaving a sort of phantom or ghost star.
Which means it's still well worth reading. Fans of Ramsey Campbell's Nazareth Hill should stop here, to meet another plucky adolescent girl who may be the only one clever enough to notice danger as it slowly infects her home (of course any brave child remotely resembling the heroine in Nazareth Hill, and finding herself in similar--but not supernatural--dire straits, is likely to win me over big-time). Fans of Stephen King's Misery should probably meet The Tutor; Peter Abrahams seems to have King's ability to create characters and situations presented in a style that compels you to read on and on and on until the book is suddenly finished (and they both do psychopaths very well, thank you). Fans of...well, heck, either Conan Doyle's "The Speckled Band", or Alan Scholefield's forgotten novel Venom (also a forgotten film!), should read The Tutor, if snakes don't actually make you shiver too much, that is.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Only slightly sinister March 5 2003
Format:Hardcover
Linda and Scott Gardner have hired an instructer from a tutoring service, Julian Sawyer, to privately tutor their son, Brandon, and help him improve his SAT scores. Brandon is all set to dislike Julian right from the get-go but never gets the chance. Hey, this guy is cool! Linda and Scott fall for the tutor's charm next, relying on him for car rides, business and financial advice, and tennis tips. Brandon's little sister, Ruby, age eleven, an outgoing little Sherlock fan, shares Brandon's feelings as well. But she's also brighter than her brother (or parents) and soon deduces that Julian is not everything he appears. While the rest of her family is cuddled in Julian's palm like a sparrow in the hand of the neighborhood bully, Ruby is sniffing along for clues in a manner even Sherlock Holmes couldn't knock.
THE TUTOR starts out strong. The pace is fast, the details interesting, the characters memorable. The middle isn't so bad either. But the ending bombs inexcusably -- perhaps because as the story progresses it becomes more and more out of this world. Peter Abrahams has created here a portfolio of surreal characters, more caricatures than flesh and blood people. Each one represents a certain weakness which Julian exploits to the hilt, although Julian himself has weaknesses, as every good villain must. There's a blurb on this book's jacket from Stephen King praising the author, and while Abrahams's style may briefly remind you of King's in the way it comes across as not quite on the level, Abrahams doesn't hold a candle to King's way with words. THE TUTOR is reasonably well written and contains some excellent descriptions, but most books are reasonably well written. Little here stands out.
Horror fans, be warned. You may not be horrified (unless snakes deeply upset you). But THE TUTOR is a stylishly crafted if skewed nailbiter tale, and as such should have a case with suspense fans.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tutor
I've long been a fan of Peter Abrahams work, no pun intended. I got hooked when The Perfect Murder came out, and worked my way back and forward through many of his stories. Read more
Published on March 21 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Very exciting, the daughter is a great character
This is the first book by Abrahams I read and I enjoyed it. It's very difficult to put down and the characters truly come alive, if not always in an appealing way. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Thriller! Abrahams does it again!!
Peter Abrahams must be a scary,scary man. "Crying Wolf" was a brilliant, intense suspense thriller in a class of its own. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2002 by Christian
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs an editor badly
While this book started out well, it didn't last. The characters were one-dimensional (except for Ruby) and the plot had some major errors in it. Read more
Published on Oct. 6 2002 by Nancy A. Hudson
3.0 out of 5 stars Forget about the babysitter, worry about THE TUTOR!!!!!!!!
Have you ever hired help who become part of your lives and then they never leave. Remember the painter Eldin from Murphy Brown or more recently the general contractor from the... Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2002 by Nancy R. Katz
4.0 out of 5 stars A page-turner
This is my first Peter Abrahams book, so don't know how it compares to his others. But it's definitely a page-turner and has decent characters, most of whom are not supposed to be... Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2002 by Nina
2.0 out of 5 stars It's been told before...
This book was so-so. The storyline, about a psychotic stranger who enters a family in the guise of a friend and wrecks havoc, has been told before in movies and novels. Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars UNEDITED
This book reads like an unedited movie by a
teenager. I expected a lot more from Abrahams.
The author fails to build any character reference
and often jumps from... Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2002 by T. M. Sklarski
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it, but....
As far as psychological suspense novels go, this one was pretty good. The author hit the right notes in portraying parents that push and push their children to the extreme. Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2002
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