End of Story: A Novel of Suspense Hardcover – Apr 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Abrahams (Oblivion) solidifies his reputation as one of the best contemporary thriller writers around with this psychologically deep page-turner evoking the classic noir of Cornell Woolrich. Ivy Seidel, a struggling would-be writer paying the bills by working in a New York City bar, finds herself drawn into an unfamiliar world when she's offered the chance to teach writing at an upstate prison. The naïve teacher is startled to find that one of her students, convicted robber Vance Harrow, is actually more gifted than she is. Unable to believe that he could be both guilty and such a creative talent, Seidel begins to pick at the stray loose threads surrounding his case—despite Harrow's having pleaded guilty to the violent crime. Abrahams manages to make each individual step that his heroine takes into the twisted maze believable, even if it's clear that she's rapidly approaching a precipice that will threaten her life and her mental state. In 2005, Abrahams published his first children's novel, Down the Rabbit Hole. (Apr.)Look for a q&a with Peter Abrahams in a forthcoming issue.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Aspiring New York scribe Ivy Seidel has the right things on her reume--an MFA in creative writing and three summers at a writing workshop--but no published work. Drowning in rejection letters, she isn't sure whether she should identify herself as a writer or a waitress. Then, when a suddenly successful friend offers her his old job as a writing teacher, she seizes it as if it were a lifeline--even though she'll be teaching inmates at Dannemora Prison upstate. The brutality of the place terrifies her, but she is fascinated by her students. One inmate in particular, Vance Harrow, seems to have poetry in his soul. A remarkable story he writes in class leads her to investigate his old life in the outside world, trying to determine how much is truth and how much is fiction. Soon convinced that Harrow is innocent, Ivy embarks on a quest to clear his name, which leads her into a world where the danger is terribly real. Billed as "a novel of suspense," End of Story is part thriller, part detective story. It's a slow build, relying more on psychological traps than harrowing escapes, but by the end, it's almost physically impossible to stop turning pages. Abrahams' prose, cool and vivid, keeps the focus exactly where it should be: on the story. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Peter Abrahams is a suspense novelist, but he spends more time developing his lead character than most. Ivy Seidel is a very compelling character. She's an MFA graduate working as a bartender. When her friend sells a screen play to Hollywood, she agrees to take over his creative writing class at Dannemora. She promptly falls for one of her students, Vance Harrow, who seems to have more talent than she does.
A subplot deals with a story Ivy is trying to sell to THE NEW YORKER, entitled "Cave Man." Abrahams makes this jell when we're introduced to her caveman class. They include gang members and thugs who also seem to have a lot of innate talent, but they're incredibly violent. One of her students is a white collar criminal named Felix Balaban who has incited the wrath of Luis Morales, a gang member who feels Felix has disrespected him.
When Ivy investigates Harrow's background she discovers he was involved in a Casino robbery, but she's convinced he's innocent. She sets out to prove it.
I'm usually a slow reader, but I read this story in a couple of days. However, it has a couple of drawbacks. For one thing, the police officers who help Ivy investigate Harrow's background go way out of their way to help her. She's a fiction writer, not an investigative reporter. And she's never published anything. Certainly she's attractive, but that's not enough motivation. There's also a scene where she needs an extension ladder. The ladder reaches all the way to the third floor of a hospital. She drives a little Saab upon the roof of which she ties the ladder. She also crawls up that ladder like a Chinese acrobat, all the way to the last couple of rungs. But those are just minor quibbles; what really got my hackles up was the ironic ending. Arahams settles for clever rather than appropriateness.
I was all set to give this book five stars until I ran up against that disappointing ending, but that won't stop me from ordering another Abrahams suspense novel; he's written fourteen others, including OBLIVION, THEIR WILDEST DREAMS, and THE TUTOR.
A character in the book asks Ivy if "prison stuff hasn't been done to death" and she reflects on what her writing teacher said "Everything's up for grabs - it all depends on the angle of attack." It appears that the effort to create a fresh angle drove the plot and resulted in characters that are not always believable. A page-turner though!
Ivy Seidel is an aspiring writer struggling along while receiving rejection letters left and right. She has even begun to doubt her own abilities, and her finances are becoming a problem. When she has suddenly offered an opportunity to teach creative writing for actual pay at a maximum-security prison, she figures she has nothing to lose and it is an opportunity to hang on awhile longer while hoping for her dream break into being published.
To Ivy's surprise, she finds she really enjoys her excursions to the prison and interaction with her maximum-security writing class. As she discovers, one of her students, Vince Harrow, is quite an enigma. She discovers he has an extraordinary gift for writing. Becoming intrigued with finding such talent within the prison walls, she begins her own investigation into his case. She comes to believe Harrow may be innocent. But then why did he plead guilty? As she delves further, asking questions and digging into an intricate weave of lies and half-truths, Ivy's world is turned upside down and her very life itself is put into jeopardy. Will she survive? What is the truth, and is it worth the cost?
Abrahams has written a compelling novel filled with psychological tension. This is an engrossing, character driven story that sucks you right in. Be warned, once started, you won't be able to put this one down."