The Crime of Julian Wells by Thomas H. Cook, Julian Wells rows himself to the middle of the pond on his family’s estate and carefully slits both his wrists. He has looked over his possessions to make sure there are “no disturbances”, no clues leading to his crime. He leaves no note. Julian’s sister Loretta and his best friend Phillip are partly surprised, but can’t deny that Julian walked a dark path in life – he made a career of researching and writing about the world’s most notoriously violent and gruesome serial murderers. Philip is particularly concerned that he was unable to help his friend, and fixates on a reference Julian makes in one of his books. He claims that Phillip was the sole witness to his only crime. Phillip becomes obsessed with figuring out the hidden meaning of the single line.
The Crime of Julian Wells is an absorbing read and I truly enjoyed this introduction to Cook’s work. Cook masterfully weaves elements of Julian’s past, his fervent belief that a father is the most important element in a child’s life into a compelling and tense narrative that makes you consider the many angles from which Julian made such a spectacular misstep as the one that would cause him to take his own life. The novel is smartly written, and is a clever mixing of the history of infamous serial killers, the enigmatic nature of friendship and the fragile balance in maintaining dearly held beliefs. Phillip’s examination into his friend’s whereabouts and deeds also cause him to examine his own belief about friendship and hindsight cruelly illuminates his failures, far more than his successes.
The Crime of Julian Wells is both a meditation on the relationships we take for granted as well as a cautionary tale against assuming complete knowledge of those we hold dear. Recommended.