ANDREW KLAVAN – True Crime. Crown, hardcover. 1995. Dell, paperback, 1997. Warner, paperback, 1999. Film: Warner Brothers, 1999, with Clint Eastwood as Steve Everett and Isaiah Washington as Frank Beechum. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

   Klavan wrote the John Wells series as Keith Peterson — a dark group, also about a reporter, and a very good one. I’m not too familiar with his work under his own name, though I thought her previous novel, Corruption, was very good.

   Frank Beachum will die within less than 24 hours. He’s to be executed for the murder of a young pregnant woman, and there’s no hope of mercy or reprieve. Steve Everett is a reporter, a good one though not a very good man. A quirk of fate sends him to do a last-minute interview with the condemned man, and he leaves the prison shaken, convinced of his innocence.

   And so begins the frantic hours, as he searches for some way, any way, to avert what he now believes to be a terrible injustice. And unlikely champion, and a near hopeless quest.

   The thing about this book is that it works. Oh, after you’ve finished it and thought about it a while, you may think there were a couple of plot elements that really don’t stand close scrutiny, and maybe one or two characters who didn’t ring quite true.

   Maybe, and maybe you won’t. But if you do, it will certainly be afterward, because while you’re reading, the story will drag you along by the scruff of your neck. The suspense and air of impending doom are unrelenting, and the temptation to turn to the end and see what it will be is almost overpowering. And you won’t know until you get there. Trust me.

   Particulars? Klavan is a hell of a good writer,and the book is liberally laced with telling phrases, as “…drinking bourbon with a fine chaser of melancholy.” And if the letter Beachum writes to his daughter as awaits execution doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, I worry about you.

   The books is filled with sharply drawn characters, too, some etched in detail, some merely outlines, but all somehow real. You will remember Steve Everett,Frank Beachum, and Warden Luther Plunkitt, as a minimum, long after you put the book down. This goes on the 199 shelf alongside Cook’s Breakheart Hill, and I hope I’m lucky enough to read something else as good this year. But I won’t count on it.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #18, February-March 1995.

Editorial Update:   Klavan received an Anthony Awards nomination in 1996 for True Crime in the Best Novel category.[