Crying Wolf is a suspense novel--it says so right on the cover. In Stephen King's blurb of praise, Peter Abrahams is his "favorite American suspense novelist." That should mean nail-biting action--what's lurking around that corner?--eerie coincidence, disturbing glances into the depths of human evil, right? Well, yes. But Abrahams's novel is also a remarkably sensitive examination of a naive young man's emergence from an insular environment into a world more disorienting than he'd ever thought college could be. |
Nat is an enormously likable protagonist. His decision to leave his small hometown in Colorado to attend Inverness College, an equally small but very prestigious liberal arts institution, will force him to question attitudes and ways of life he had always taken for granted. But such novelty can be disturbing as well as rewarding: when he meets fellow students Grace and Izzie Zorn, a pair of twins born with any number of silver spoons in their identically lovely mouths, Nat must struggle to reconcile their matter-of-fact acceptance of the omnipresence of money with his own frugal existence. Both dreamer and pragmatist, Nat immediately captures the reader's sympathy.
Abrahams frames Nat's growing awareness of the complexity of existence against the life and times of Freedy Knight, a thief, bodybuilder, and con artist for whom complexity means figuring out a method of acquiring both money and women. Freedy is Abrahams's masterpiece, and he plays with the convention of free indirect discourse to bring the reader right into Freedy's supremely self-satisfied and remarkably funny mind. After a stunning failure as a pool maintenance engineer in California--"Women liked brains, no getting around it. Brains meant sensitivity. For example, floating in the water near the filter was a little furry thing. 'Poor little fella,' you could say to some woman who happened to come by the pool. That was all it took: sensitivity. Combine that with the ripped part, the buff part, the diesel part--that bare-chested dude, wearing cut-offs and workboots, the skimmer held loose in his hands, was he himself, after all--and what did you have? The kind of dude women went crazy for, absolutely no denying that."--Freedy brings his arrogance and a powerful methamphetamine addiction back east. It's only a matter of time before his path and Nat's will cross.
When Freedy (searching for dorm room goodies to fence) and the Inverness trio both stumble upon the underground rooms of a long-gone secret society, and when his mother's unemployment means that Nat can no longer afford to stay at Inverness, greed, nonchalance, and fear unite. The three students are on a collision course with a desperately charismatic criminal; the twins' well-intentioned plan to keep Nat at Inverness by staging a kidnapping for ransom will go horribly awry. Nothing bad was supposed to happen: they were only crying wolf. Unfortunately, sometimes the wolf is real.
For Nat and his new friends, Grace and Izzie Zorn, twin sisters as seductive as they are elusive, it was the perfect plan for some quick cash. A bold scheme with an admirable motive: to save the bright future of a deserving young man. And the victim, too, was deserving--an arrogant billionaire who would hardly notice a financial loss. All the plotters needed was a believable story, desperate and frightening, but false. Nothing bad was supposed to happen. They were only crying wolf. But what if the wolf were real? For someone in the shadows is listening, someone who thinks he deserves an even brighter future. Now a risky but basically innocent game will take a horrifying turn. . . .