Scribner, Nov 2007, $24.95, 385 pp.
In Athens Point, Mississippi, special education teacher Laurel Shields takes a home pregnancy test and is horrified to learn she is pregnant; for eleven months she was having an affair with Danny McDavitt, the father of one of her students. He ended it because if he couldn’t file for divorce because his wife would gain custody of his beloved autistic son even though she finds their child is a burden.
aurel leaves the house for a parent-teacher conference, while her husband Dr. Warren Shields searching the books in the library. When she returns home, Warren points a gun at her. He found a love letter Danny wrote to her even though he didn’t sign his name; Warren is furious demanding to know who her lover is. She doesn’t tell him but he has an idea that will crack her password on the computer and she knows that there are emails with Danny’s name on them. When the children come home, he frightens them by acting crazy but Laurel is able to get her son out of the house. He tells the neighbor who tells the sheriff and pretty soon the house is surrounded by police who know that there is a good chance that the good doctor will kill his wife if and when he discovers who the father of her children. In an ironic quirk the only person Warren trusts to talk to is Danny.
When one thinks of a great thriller writer Greg Iles naturally comes to mind. The tension begins on the very first page and just keeps on escalating as Warren becomes more and more out of control. There is no reasoning with him yet Laurel desperately tries to reach him. Readers will admire her as she deftly handles him but will also sorry for the couple who have lost so much and stand to lose even more. THIRD DEGREE is the appropriate title because that is what Warren does to Laurel throughout this terse domestic thriller.