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The Wrong Man    by John Katzenbach order for
Wrong Man
by John Katzenbach
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Ashley Freeman is bright, beautiful, and - as her friends would tell you - a bit mysterious. Living in Boston, finishing her studies as an undergraduate, and on the verge of beginning a graduate program in art history, Ashley's personal life has been a bit of a paradox: Popular and gregarious, she often feels isolated and alone, without anyone in whom she can confide. So, Ashley's secrets and fears often remain undisclosed.

Here, at the heart of the plot of The Wrong Man, is one of her secrets: Ashley met a seductive young man whom she knows as Michael O'Connell, and then she irresponsibly spent one intoxicated night with him. For her part, Ashley tries to absolve herself of their one aberrant evening together by telling O'Connell, 'It went a bit further than it should of. Can't we just part as friends? Go our own ways.' But O'Connell won't go his own way because he simply 'knew he loved her.' Now O'Connell is obsessed with Ashley. Through disturbing phone calls, unusual flowers, repetitive emails, and a rather troubling letter, O'Connell persists in his single-minded pursuit of her.

However, the good-looking, magnetic O'Connell - often intoxicated by rage - knows something else. He knows that 'he was destined to be a criminal.' Other people know something about the deceptive and dangerous O'Connell, too: Someone says that O'Connell is 'a man of unusual anger.' Someone else says that he is a 'nascent psychopath.'

Meanwhile, although Ashley has told no one about this problem that just won't seem to go away, her father, Scott Freeman, inadvertently and gradually discovers evidence of Ashley's predicament. Willing to do anything to protect his daughter, Scott - the university history professor who prides himself on rationalism and sensibility - tries every imaginable method to extricate Ashley from the increasingly dangerous situation.

However, when every reasonable approach seems to fail, Scott participates in a desperate plan, which involves an alliance with his ex-wife (the attorney Sally Richards-Freeman) and his ex-wife's partner (the school guidance counselor and soccer coach, Hope Frazier). Theirs is an ingenious scheme designed to permanently discourage Michael O'Connell's obsessive pursuit of Ashley; those few who would willingly give up their own lives in order to protect Ashley will not give up until the threat is eliminated - even if someone must commit murder.

The Wrong Man soars along briskly with an intricate plot, compelling characters, and intense suspense. Accomplished author John Katzenbach has given readers another thrilling novel, yet some readers will wonder, 'Is The Wrong Man a top-notch murder story?' Others will ask the question, 'Is it a powerful love story, a story in which there is paradoxically at the same time 'too much love' and 'not enough love?'' And still others will consider another possibility: 'Is it a cautionary tale in which the question is asked, 'How far would you go to protect someone you love?''

Read The Wrong Man, get inextricably drawn into the frightening, fiery, violent, and murderous adventure, and discover the answers for yourself.

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