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Tell No Lies
by Gregg Hurwitz
(St. Martinís Press, $25.99, V) ISBN 9780312625528
Had Daniel Brasher been born a century earlier, he would have been said to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Though his parents have gone their separate ways, both retained their wealth. His mother still lives the life of a San Francisco woman of means, and, while Daniel would rather earn his own living, he unconsciously knows his mother would come to his rescue if some catastrophe befell him.

At present he is married to Cristina, a woman he loves, whose background is almost the polar opposite of his.Though she makes a decent living, her family is from Mexico, where they have had to work hard for subsistence wages. Cristina would like to support those whose backgrounds resemble her own and does community outreach work, while Daniel does group counseling for those recently released from prison who have been recognized as trying to turn their lives around.

Recently Daniel has gotten discouraged with his group counseling and has decided to go into private practice. He has tendered his resignation and is cleaning out his mailbox (the old fashioned kind, cubbyholes in a wooden grid). Daniel frequently gets misdelivered mail so he is not unduly upset when he finds a slip of paper that warns him to admit what he has done or suffer the consequences. Since the deadline noted in the correspondence has already passed, he assumes the note was stuffed in the wrong mailbox. He then learns that the person for whom the note was intended has been murdered. In addition, the killing may have some connection to the group he is counseling.

More notes appear in his mailbox, but the people who have been targeted cannot be tracked down before they are killed. Somehow all the victims are connected, with Daniel a central player in the deadly game. Though the police would like to keep Daniel out of the case, he alone has information that the police must have to solve the case.

Though Hurwitz starts out with his usual careful development of the tension and anxiety that set the mood for most of his thrillers, he makes the reader accept several conditions that call for more than the usual willing suspension of disbelief. One of the characters is a woman, who is a nurse suffering from hemophilia. I recognize that great strides have been made in medicine in the last half century so it is probably possible for a female hemophiliac to live beyond puberty. However, I wonder if most health care providers are willing to provide benefits which adequately compensate such individuals. The character in question does not seem to have much discretionary income . Daniel and his wife are clearly targeted by the perpetrator and they receive what should be adequate protection. However at a key moment they are out having dinner by themselves, totally at the mercy of the killer.

On the plus side, the author gives a vivid description of San Francisco on a more extensive track than cable cars, steep hills and a vibrant Chinatown. With Danielís status as a person born to wealth, we are treated to the more elegant side of the city, as well as the seamier side through Cristina and Danielís jobs.

Though Tell No Lies is obviously a thriller, Hurwitz brings up some moral questions well worth thinking about. Money buys privileges that morally should be open to people from all income brackets.

Mr. Hurwitz is well versed in the evolution of the English language. He defines the word garagelo for the less well informed as a converted garage with a futon and a space heater. Who says you canít improve your vocabulary by reading mystery novels?

--Andy Plonka

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