Review

Live to Tell

by Wendy Corsi Staub

One would think that Wendy Corsi Staub is seven people
inhabiting the body of one, writing thrillers and young adult books
under her own name while penning women’s fiction titles under
a pseudonym. What is more impressive than the quantity of her work,
however, is its sustained quality. Reading her is akin to
watching someone walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls: you wonder
how long that person is going to be able to keep doing it without
slipping. The answer --- at least in Staub’s case --- is not
yet, if ever, given that her latest work is one of her best to
date.

The MacGuffin that propels LIVE TO TELL is a stuffed pink rabbit
that belongs to Sadie Walsh, a four-year-old girl whose parents,
Nick and Lauren, have just separated. The rabbit, named Fred, has
gone missing after an excursion into New York, possibly in Grand
Central Station. Nick, the absent father, is shamed into retrieving
Fred from the Grand Central Lost and Found. Though he dutifully
makes the effort, he collects the wrong pink stuffed animal. Sounds
like a Helen Fuller Orton story, right? Well, it’s not.
Someone wants the stuffed animal that Sadie now has and will do
anything to get it. Secreted within it, you see, is a memory stick
that has some extremely interesting background data on a political
candidate.

In lesser hands this could have been a comedic novel, but LIVE
TO TELL is no comedy, as there is some domestic drama that darkens
the picture. Lauren has been summarily dumped by her husband. And
--- this is pure genius --- Nick has left her for an older woman.
Not much older, but the conventional wisdom is that men of a
certain age automatically stray with a (much) younger woman, though
the book presents a vastly different and more highly believable
scenario. The devastation visited upon Nick and Lauren’s two
other, older children by Nick’s absence is quietly but
effectively portrayed as well, even as they go about their lives,
unaware that the entire family is being observed with bad intent
and in plain sight. And where is the stuffed animal with the goods?
Only Sadie knows for sure, and she isn’t telling.

LIVE TO TELL, though it stands very well entirely on its own, is
the first book of a trilogy that, at least from initial
appearances, plays out the thick thread of unintended consequence
that radiates bad actions. A preview of the second installment,
SCARED TO DEATH (to be published later this year), is included at
the end of the novel. It appears that this upcoming book may be
even better than the current one. My best advice: read LIVE TO TELL
now and wait for the next two volumes. You won’t be
sorry.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 30, 2010

Live to Tell
by Wendy Corsi Staub

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Avon
  • ISBN-10: 0061895067
  • ISBN-13: 9780061895067