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Customer Review

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We were meant for each other.", October 8, 2006
This review is from: The Wrong Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
John Katzenbach's "The Wrong Man" features a particularly nasty villain named Michael O'Connell. After having a one-night stand with lovely art student Ashley Freeman, O'Connell begins to stalk her relentlessly. When she tries to reason with him, he merely smirks and tells her that eventually she will understand that they are destined to be together. Ashley would prefer not to involve her family in her problems, but eventually her father Scott, a college history professor, and her mother, Sally, a lawyer, find out that Ashley is in serious trouble. They, along with Hope, Sally's lover, decide to put their heads together to come up with a plan to deal with O'Connell.

However, far from being a garden-variety stalker, O'Connell has some unique skills at his disposal. First, he is an expert computer hacker who uses his considerable ability to invade and disrupt the lives of people he despises. In addition, he seems to have little need of money, since instead of working, he spends many hours keeping tabs on Ashley. O'Connell is a sadist who arranges convenient "accidents" to punish people who, he fears, might be getting too close to Ashley. In fact, he is a master criminal who uses his brilliant mind to commit felonies without leaving behind any forensic evidence. Will Ashley ever regain the freedom to live her life without fear? Will she have to look over her shoulder indefinitely? After much soul searching, Ashley's parents come up with a way to fight back against this vicious individual who has robbed a vulnerable young woman of her innocence and peace of mind.

"The Wrong Man" had the potential to be a suspenseful and psychologically engaging thriller and it does have some genuinely chilling moments. However, at over four hundred and fifty pages, it is a bit too long and repetitious. O'Connell is a one-dimensional psychopath who is almost too bad to be true. In addition, Katzenbach uses a clumsy device that disrupts the narrative's flow. Throughout the book, the author inserts a series of intense conversations between an unknown woman and an unnamed writer. The woman, who is obviously an insider, for some reason feels the need to give a detailed account of the conflict between O'Connell and the Freemans to a total stranger. Instead of illuminating the story, however, these passages feel artificial and intrusive. In addition, the long-awaited conclusion is convoluted and unrealistic. If it had been more carefully constructed and edited, "The Wrong Man" could have been a more effective novel about the extremes to which ordinary people might be driven when seeking justice in an unjust world.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 9, 2008, 1:44:40 PM PDT
Its a great relief to read your comment. I was disapointed, exactly in the three points you make: the excerpts in which the "writer" talks with the woman are there no one knows what for, the solution the family plots is completely unreal, needing a chronometrical precision to be succesfull, and there are 250 pages that could have been spared.
Aditionally, one wonders why such a complicated scheme once decided to do the deed? Why not do it directly to the culprit?

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2008, 6:47:46 PM PDT
booklover10 says:
Yes, simplicity is often the better way to go than overcomplicating things.

All the best,
E. Bukowsky
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