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A quiet thriller

The Empty HouseThe Empty House by Michael Gilbert

Brilliant genetic scientist Dr. Alexander Wolfe drives his car over a cliff one evening in southeastern England, and insurance adjuster Peter Manciple comes along behind to make sure that there is no reason that his firm shouldn’t pay out on Dr. Wolfe’s very large and oddly written insurance policy. All, as you surely knew, is not as it seems, and mayhem and bloody murder ensue.

Can I get away with using “quiet” to modify the noun “thriller?” Because that’s what many of Michael Gilbert’s books are, quiet thrillers. He has the endearing habit of elevating ordinary people by way of extraordinary circumstances to heretofore unthought of actions, and after the authorities come gallumphing in to investigate and inquire and pry and explain and justify, our not quite Ordinary Bloke carries on with his life. And then there are the always perceptive comments on Life, the Universe and Everything, and the sly asides that yank you up with a jerk and make you read them twice to make sure he really said that.

Another thing I like about Gilbert is that he doesn’t always tie things up neatly at the end. The Empty House’s conclusion is more neat than most, but you certainly understand Peter’s ultimate decision.

***SPOILER***

Also, I’m not all that certain that Dr. Wolfe is really dead. He’s been dead before.

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