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Taking Lives


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About the Author

Novelist, historian, journalist, and broadcaster Michael Pye is the author of ten other books including The Drowning Room and Taking Lives, soon to be a major motion picture starring Angelina Jolie. He is currently at work on his next novel.


Martin Arkenhout, a Dutch teenager traveling in America, discovers that he can kill someone and assume his victim's identity until he is no longer able to maintain it‘then he murders again, and again. One of his victims in Europe, a British art scholar, turns out to have committed a theft that sets a museum curator on his trail. Martin and the curator end up in Portugal, where they are brought together by attraction to the same woman. Pye, who lives in Portugal, has written widely on religion and film, translated Japanese, and previously succeeded in fiction (The Drowning Room, LJ 11/1/95), with good reason. This psychologically suspenseful tale is complex and cleverly plotted, with scenic detail, depth of characterization, narration from multiple points of view, and a double-twist ending that truly surprises. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/98.]‘Roland C. Person, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

The second novel by the author of The Drowning Room is equal parts literary thriller, noir study of the mysteries of identity and poignant account of exile and return. It begins as Martin Arkenhout, a Dutch exchange student traveling in Florida, brutally dispatches a traveling companion badly injured by a hit-and-run driver, rationalizing the death blow as a mercy killing. He then takes over the victim's identity and begins a series of such killings, ever in search of new persona‘as long as each victim has good sources of cash and credit. One of them, however, turns out to be an art historian who has stolen some valuable antique watercolors from the British Museum, and John Costa, a minor official at the museum, sets out to find him. He tracks Arkenhout to Portugal, where the novel takes a new turn‘for Costa's father recently returned there after a life of exile in London, and on his death it becomes clear that he left a mystery, related to the dire politics of the old days, behind him. Costa and Arkenhout both become involved with an attractive local lawyer; there is an inevitable further murder and yet another switch of identities; and the book ends on a somberly enigmatic note. Pye is a writer with a remarkable eye and a fresh, vigorous style, and many scenes leap to life; the sense of rustic life in Portugal is exquisitely rendered (the author lives there), and he is equally adept at sudden outbursts of violence. But the book's rather shallow concept, including its unconvincing sex scenes involving the Portuguese lawyer, weighs against its virtues. It reads as if the author intended to write a modish thriller, then was led, by the weight of his material, into more interesting but ultimately unresolved directions. 50,000 first printing. (Mar.)

"Riveting and horrifying. . . . A memorable, unsettling book."--USA Today

''A highly unusual psychological thriller... a dimension of suspense of which most writers in the genre are never aware"--Chicago Tribune

"A dangerous game of cat and mouse in which none of the usual rules of fair play apply. . .[combining] pyschological insight with Hitchcockian suspense."--The New York Times

''Exceedingly clever... Taking Lives is good, if bloody entertainment.--The Washington Post

"A damned good thriller... exceptional story-telling. Pye takes an over the top idea and brings it to exquisite fruition...featuring art, politics, secrets and lies... and a deep sense of what men whose ives are built on lies feel when no one appears to be watching."--The Baltimore Sun

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