St. Martin's Press, 2013, 371 pages
One misstep puts a man - and everyone he loves - in the path of a relentless killer.
The scion of an old-money San Francisco family, Daniel Brasher left his well-paying, respectable money-manager position to marry his community organizer wife and work at a job he loves, leading group counseling sessions with recently paroled violent offenders.
One night he finds an envelope - one intended for someone else that was placed in his office mailbox by accident. Inside is an unsigned piece of paper, a handwritten note that says, "Admit what you've done or you will bleed for it." The deadline in the note has already passed, and when Daniel looks into it, he finds that the person to whom the envelope was addressed was brutally murdered. But that's just the beginning.
It appears that the killer might have some connection to the offenders Daniel is counseling.
As he scrambles to uncover the truth, Daniel finds more warnings in his office mail, to people whom the police cannot track down, and to victims who cannot be saved. Daniel's efforts to find and help the victims, however, have alerted the killer to his involvement. Next Daniel gets a deadly threat of his own. Now, with the clock ticking, Daniel must somehow appease, outwit, or unmask a seemingly unstoppable killer.
The thing I liked most about this book was the San Francisco scenery. Also, Daniel Brasher's interactions with his haughty, difficult, unapologetically rub-your-nose-in-her-wealth mother, were kind of entertaining, as were his interactions with the much more sympathetic group of parolees he counsels in once a week group sessions.
Having walked away from the lucrative business of managing his family's fortune, Daniel married a zealous community organizer from the wrong side of the tracks, and is trying to remake himself as something other than a privileged rich dude. However, he is still very much a privileged rich dude. Even as the novel opens, he's planning to give up his job counseling ex-cons for the city, and start a private practice in a tony high-rise office.
He gets drawn into a murderous drama when a note is "accidentally" left in his office mailbox: "Admit what you've done or you will bleed for it."
Daniel helps the police figure out who the target is - too late - and then this pattern repeats. A serial killer is tracking people down for reasons that only spawn such meticulous and carefully planned killing sprees in fiction. Of course Daniel becomes a target as well.
Not everything is believable, like the SFPD's willingness to let Daniel keep coming to crime scenes, or the convenient escapes, or the accommodating nature of all the killer's victims, and the book is clearly written to let the reader feel smart by figuring out what's coming next before the protagonists do. But it was still pretty entertaining, a decent beach or airplane read.
Verdict: There is only minimal satisfaction in playing "guess the killer," but despite it being both somewhat formulaic and at times implausible, Tell No Lies was a decent read if you're in the mood for a brisk little thriller that is not a police procedural.
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