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'Without Warning' by David Rosenfelt: Predictions of doom

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Without Warning by David Rosenfelt

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David Rosenfelt’s latest, “Without Warning,” is brimming with his usual great stuff: tightly wound plot; surprising revelations as that plot unfolds; superbly drawn and well-developed characters; breezy humor intertwined with dark suspense; subtle clues that lead to the inevitable unmasking of the bad guy; vibrant, authentic-sounding dialogue and narration; and a fascinating back story.

A few details: The protagonist is Jake Robbins, the police chief in the small, sleepy town of Wilton, Maine. Jake’s back story itself sounds like a whole novel. His wife has been murdered, and the man convicted of the crime, Roger Hagel, had been one of Jake’s close friends. To make matters worse – and even more complicated – Hagel had been having an affair with Jake’s wife before the murder. But she had ended it. So Hagel has been convicted of a crime of passion and sent to prison, where he is murdered. His wife, Katie Sanford, is the editor of the local newspaper, but she had an affair with Jake when they were both teenagers. So there are all kinds of sparks flying between Jake and Katie.

But the real story, the real mystery, begins when a buried capsule containing predictions of future events in Wilton suddenly turns up after a major storm. One of the sets of predictions is different from all the others. It had been anonymously placed in the capsule, and its contents are eerie, violent and absolutely accurate. It tells of murders, fires, accidents, and other tragic events, and many of the predictions are riddles. Only a couple are direct and easily understood. And they have already happened.

As Chief of Police, it is Jake’s job to find the killer, the “Predictor,” and to figure out the riddles in order to keep future murders and “accidents” from happening.

It seems that almost anyone in the main cast of characters may be the culprit; but whoever the real murderer is, that person is brilliant, cruel, deceitful, and virtually impossible to identify. And the murders just keep on comin’.

Rosenfelt’s ability to build suspense is peerless, and the events of the plot never strain the reader’s credulity. Best of all, the clues to the murderer’s identity are all there, but we don’t see them as clues until Rosenfelt finally reveals the solutions to all the mysteries.

Another of his talents is his superb narrative technique. Jake, the hero, is the narrator of much of the story, but other chapters are written in third person. In every case, however, and for every character, Rosenfelt expertly takes us inside their minds. We see what each of them sees, and we know everything they know and everything they do not know. The technique makes each character come alive and also makes for terrific irony shooting out in all directions.

Incidentally, on second reading of the novel, I saw cleverly placed clues which I hadn’t recognized as clues at all on first reading. So that second reading leads to several “AHA!” moments.

It’s all extraordinarily clever, as is the author himself.

For a fascinating reading experience that you will find both amusing and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, read “Without Warning” or any other David Rosenfelt novel. You won’t be sorry, but you may be up all night.

Please note: This review is based on the advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher, Minotaur, for review purposes.

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