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by Simon Wood
Barclay, September 2002
309 pages
ISBN: 1931402302

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Imagine this happening to you: you're speeding along a road that is not heavily traveled when a large vehicle comes from behind and taps you. Your car ends up going off the road and into a river. Since you cannot swim and your car is filling with water, that is quite alarming. And then your eyes register something else„the driver who forced you off the road is not racing off to get you help. Instead, he is standing in the roadway with his thumb pointed down. An accident? Even after Josh Michaels manages somehow to make it to shore, no one else believes that the act was deliberate.

Although Josh seems to have the picture perfect life with a lovely wife, daughter and home, he's been living a lie for quite some time. Several years earlier, he took a kickback on a construction job so that he could pay his daughter's medical bills. At the time, he was involved in an affair with his secretary, Belinda ("Bell") Wong and confided in her. He's since thrown her over, and she's exacting revenge by blackmailing him and threatening to tell the authorities about the kickback and his wife about the affair.

But the "accident" has nothing to do with that and everything to do with the success of a certain insurance executive who has hired a hit man to improve his actuarial statistics. Along with Josh, an older woman is being terrorized by this man in the hopes of giving her a heart attack and hastening her death. The hit man has several schemes in mind to kill both Josh and the woman. He's not one to do a simple robbery or shooting but rather into elaborate plans that make the hit look like an accident. Unfortunately, this is one of those hit men that I often find in books who are supposedly tremendously proficient and lethal until it comes to the protagonist, with whom they blunder again and again.

Wood builds a heightening sense of tension, both around the hit man's activities and the threats of the ex-mistress. However, I wished that the denouement had occurred many pages earlier than it actually did as the narrative stretched to the point where the tension began to dissipate. Wood built up to an exciting resolution which faltered for me when all the victims of the hit man materialized together in a room in a kind of otherworldly event (the dreaded woo woo factor) and Bell revealed a dastardly secret of her own, one that didn't really seem necessary to the plot.

Accidents is a first book, and Wood did a nice job of building a unique premise out of the insurance angle. There were some interesting twists and turns along the way that kept me engaged. However, I found many aspects to be implausible, not the least of which was that Josh inspired such passion in the jilted lover, the fact that the kickback was relatively small and he paid such a price to keep it hidden and that he did not disclose all of his dark secrets to his wife when he had the opportunity. The book was a mixed bag for me. Wood shows the potential to really put together a thrilling book if he would only tighten up some of the plot and character elements.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, September 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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