‘Death of the Black-Haired Girl’, by Robert Stone

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Robert Stone is considered by many to be among the finest American writers at work today. He’s certainly a literary novelist – but is Stone a writer of thrillers?

His new novel, like his masterpiece A Flag for Sunrise (1981), is a multi-­layered work of literature with pronounced elements of suspense – though it is a far more modest piece.

Stone’s protagonist Professor Steven Brookman is sleeping with one of his students, the seductive, volatile Maud; when he learns that his wife is pregnant, he ends the affair. But then a drunken Maud confronts him outside his house, in front of his wife and other witnesses; during this, she is killed by a passing car. Steven is suspected of pushing her, not least by the alcoholic ex-­policeman father of the dead girl, who believes he may escape justice.

The characters’ motivations are satisfyingly equivocal, and Stone – not for the first time – echoes Graham Greene with notions of faith and redemption.

Death of the Black-Haired Girl, by Robert Stone, Corsair, £8.99, 288 pages

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