Book Review - Third Degree by Greg Iles
On my way back from a week-long conference, I did something I really didn't need to do... go into an airport bookstore to get something to read. I mean, I was only packing about seven books to start with, and still had about four I hadn't started. But I wanted some mind candy, something with action and suspense that would last just about the length of a cross-country flight. I picked up Third Degree with Greg Iles in paperback as the premise sounded interesting. And it worked perfectly... kept me turning pages, and I finished just about the same time as the plane landed.
Laurel Shields is living a life that appears to be one that anyone would love to have. Two great kids, a husband (Warren) who has a great job as a physician, and her teaching job at a local school, working with special needs kids. But that life holds a lot of secrets... Warren has become more controlling as the marriage has progressed, and Laurel is far from happy living in the small town where Warren grew up. All this dissatisfaction led to her having an affair with the father of one of the kids she teaches. Although she's deeply in love with Danny McDavitt (and he with her), he can't leave his wife as she'll take his son away from him. When Laurel wakes up on this particular day, she finds out something distressing... she's pregnant, and there's a very good chance it's Danny's. Warren seems to be having a melt-down in the study over something, and Lauren wonders if it's related to the tax issues she's having at his clinic with his business partner. The complete stress of the affair and the pregnancy sends her home early with the start of a migraine, only to find Warren still there... with a gun... and a letter from her lover that he found. Now he wants to know who she's been sleeping with, how long it's been going on, and he'll go to any length to find out. The next twelve hours is a fine dance between her repeated denials, his mental instability, McDavitt trying to rescue both her and her kids, and the police wanting to storm the house with guns blazing.
Normally in a novel like this, you have a set of good guys and bad guys. But here, everyone involved in the core story is flawed. Warren's psychotic, Lauren's been sleeping around on her husband, and Danny is the "sleepee". The only innocent ones are the kids who are caught in the crossfire. Even the people who work in the clinic with Warren are messed-up individuals trying to stay out of jail for their part in some illegal activities. But strangely, it's hard not to build up a great deal of empathy for Danny and Laurel and what they were trying to escape in their day-to-day lives. As the tension ratchets up during the standoff, McDavitt goes above and beyond to try and end the confrontation with everyone still alive at the end, including Warren. And there are a number of plot twists towards the end that change your whole viewpoint of exactly what has been going on.
Looking at some of the other reviews on Amazon, I see there's a huge spread in terms of whether people liked the book or not. It seems to be predicated on whether or not you've read Iles before and expect certain types of stories from him. Since it's been awhile since I've read any of his work, I wasn't preconditioned for anything in particular. And as such, I thought it was a great read...