The title of Richard North Patterson’s 2012 thriller contains a hint of the plot, because the central event is a death caused by a fall from a cliff on Martha’s Vineyard. And the central question is, was the fall that caused the death of famous author Benjamin Blaine the result of an accident, suicide, or murder?
There is plenty of action in this book but it’s basically a psychological thriller, and a very good one. The important relationships are those within the the dead mans’ family, which could be called dysfunctional except for the fact that until his death it seemed to function well enough. The famous man was a philanderer with a ruthless personality, but neither his long-suffering wife nor the brother he treated with contempt nor the first-born son he viewed as a disappointment ever pushed back. The only member of the family with a similarly strong character was the younger son who left home suddenly and hadn’t spoken to his father in ten years.
The story is told from the point of view of the younger son, who comes home for the funeral. He soon realizes that the actions of the father he hated have given the police reason to suspect that the mother, brother or uncle he loves might have committed murder. He’s the only member of the family who isn’t a suspect, because he was in Afghanistan at the time of his father’s death.
The returning son doesn’t care whether one of the family murdered his father, he only wants to make sure that none of them suffer for it. To do that, he has to know what actually happened. Luckily, his experience organizing resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan has provided a skill set that can help him sort out his family’s problems.