Thomas H. Cook

Sandrine’s Case

"Sandrine’ is a novel that demonstrates that the modern crime novel has a reach and scope denied to most other genres."


When Sam met Sandrine, a fellow doctorate student in New York, he couldn't believe his luck. She was beautiful, bohemian and daring - everything he wasn't. Together anything seemed possible.

However, time glides on and what a casual observer might have witnessed as a gilded life was not what it seemed. Sandrine had been stockpiling prescription drugs. She is found dead, laid out on their marital bed, a glass of vodka by her side and a fistful of painkillers in her stomach. The coroner says suicide. The District Attorney is certain it wasn't and he can't see past the husband.

As the book begins, Sam must face a town's justice officials convinced of his guilt and a daughter whose faith in her father has been rocked to its core.

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If you prefer books with a large body count and/or high voltage action set pieces, then move along quietly, this book isn't for you. However, if you like to mix it up, or read books with a thoughtful edge then I can thoroughly recommend 'Sandrine'. The action for this book takes place mostly in a court room. And normally this would mean a “pass” from me. I'm not usually a fan, but something about this book caught me quickly and kept me reading. A master crime writer, regardless of his subject matter will set up a question or series of questions that get wriggling you on the hook – and Thomas H Cook does that wonderfully with his “guilty or not guilty” scenario. This is not a gorge-yourself-read-it-all-in-one-sitting kind of book, but one with a measured pace, full of insight and pin-point poetic prose. At one moment near the end, Sam Madison, the “voice” of the book muses – “The hinge that swings us towards calamity rarely squeaks, I thought as the jury foreman rose to deliver the verdict in my case. Life should fill our ears with warnings, but it falls silent at our infant cry.” Words tasty enough to eat or what? Sam Madison is a fascinating character. Pedantry appears to be his default reaction, failed ambition hangs over him like a cloud and solipsism his raison d'etre. And yet he has a vulnerability that reminds us he is unfailingly human. All in all, the most unusual main character I've come across in a crime novel in a long time. 'Sandrine' is a novel that demonstrates that the modern crime novel has a reach and scope denied to most other genres. It's a dissection of a marriage. It's an investigation of the layers of the human heart. And make no mistake; it's a book where Sam Madison isn't the only one on trial. Who out there has not allowed the tread of the years to wither their early ambitions, or their better selves? Who among us hasn't saved the worst of themselves for the ones they love the most? It's not just Sam Madison on trial in 'Sandrine', we all are and there resides the quiet power and beauty of this book.

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