Review

The Spire

by Richard North Patterson

Richard North Patterson established himself as a bestselling
writer mostly by creating top-notch legal thrillers that put him
right in step with other greats of that genre like John Grisham and
Scott Turow. Over the past few years, his work has taken on more
varying subjects, like a U.S. Presidential campaign in THE RACE and
international politics with the 2008 hit, ECLIPSE.

His latest work, THE SPIRE, is a psychological murder mystery
centered on a college campus in Ohio and deals with major crimes
from both the present and the past. Mark Darrow rose to fame at
Caldwell College in Wayne, Ohio, as the star quarterback for their
football team. However, his memories of Caldwell are forever marred
by a murder that took place at the end of his last year there.
Darrow discovered the body of Angela Hall, a black female student
he knew, strangled to death at the base of the Spire --- the bell
tower at the center of campus. His mentor and recruiter, Lionel
Farr, quickly pulled him away from campus so that his future is not
permanently scarred by this tragic event. To make matters worse,
his best friend and former teammate, Steve Tillman, was convicted
of the crime and is spending life behind bars.

At the start of THE SPIRE, we find Darrow 20 years older and
returning to his alma mater to take over the role of college
president. During his absence from Caldwell, he had become a
successful attorney in Boston and also leaves behind another
tragedy --- the death of his wife and child due to an accident on
an icy road. He finds that his former mentor is still
well-established there and currently the college provost. It was
Farr’s urging that brought him back to campus. The first
unenviable task to which he is subjected is the investigation and
ultimate prosecution of the previous college president for the
embezzlement of nearly one million dollars. Darrow finds himself at
cross-purposes as he also begins to privately re-open the murder
case of Angela Hall. As the dual investigations start to heat up,
Darrow learns that the embezzler and murderer might well be the
same individual; not only is one innocent person already behind
bars, but another may end up there for the more recent crime.

THE SPIRE is filled with well-drawn characters, both in the past
and the present, who keep the story moving and presents enough
suspects for the reader to be constantly questioning what might
have happened and who is really behind it. To make matters even
more difficult for Darrow, he finds himself falling for Taylor,
Farr’s daughter. She was only seven years old when he left
Caldwell College the first time. Now at age 28, she is a desirable
and interesting woman to whom he is instantly drawn. What makes the
relationship so compelling is the fact that Taylor has been haunted
by nightmares from her mother’s death, which took place
shortly after the Hall murder, and she has subconsciously fought
what is at the heart of these night terrors.

Darrow is thrown right into the past as he crosses paths with a
former high school teammate who is now the town sherriff, a college
board member who was a potential murder suspect in the Hall case,
and Angela’s wayward brother and infamous drug dealer, Carl.
Using his skills as a former prosecutor, Darrow begins to sift
through past and present leads that bring him closer to discovering
the truth behind both the murder and embezzlement mysteries and
unwittingly putting himself directly in the crosshairs of a
psychopathic killer.

It is always a delight to read a Richard North Patterson novel
because the characters and stories he creates never fail to be
engaging. THE SPIRE is no exception, and I applaud the fact that he
continues to move away from predominantly legal thrillers to spread
his wings into other arenas and show what a skilled craftsman he
is. What I particularly liked was the multiple symbolic uses of the
Spire, as this structure remains a physical representative for much
of what has happened at Caldwell College throughout the years. THE
SPIRE is an engaging read that will appeal to longtime fans as well
as anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 23, 2011

The Spire
by Richard North Patterson

  • Publication Date: April 27, 2010
  • Genres: Mystery, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0312946392
  • ISBN-13: 9780312946395