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    Review of THE FUGITIVE KING by Sarah R. Shaber

    Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur 2002

    Simon Shaw has achieved some notoriety as a "forensic historian"; that is, a history professor who has a knack for solving really, really cold murder cases by examining them from a historian's perspective. Now a convicted murderer who has read about Simon escapes from prison and takes Simon hostage. He demands that Simon investigate the decades-old murder for which he is serving a life sentence. He did confess, the convict says, but the confession was beaten out of him.

    After this exciting opening, Simon manages to get the guy to give himself up. Nothing much happens for the next 70 pages or so as Simon half-heartedly looks into the matter while dealing with his shaky relationship with his non-committal girlfriend, Julia, and his university students desperate for passing grades. But after reading some old newspapers and talking to a couple of people, he decides something about the 1958 murder is out of whack. And since it took place near his hometown of Boone, North Carolina, and since he needs to get away for a while, the old murder is a perfect excuse to pay a visit to his relatives.

    The plot doesn't really get rolling until about halfway through the book, but it didn't seem to matter too much. The characters are engaging and amusing, Simon is likable and very human, and the novel has a sharp sense of place that makes me homesick for my mother's cooking. The family relationships have a ring of truth to them that makes this book a fun read, and the solution to the mystery was satisfying and clever without being outlandish.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 1/04/03

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