||January 1, 2005
Double Forté is a chilling mystery set in the verdant landscape of Upstate New York's Genesee Valley. Packed with memorable characters, hair-raising chase scenes, and touching family moments, it’s a solid page-turner.
Desolate over his wife’s suicide four years earlier, small-town college professor Gus LeGarde faces bewildering emotions when he falls for Camille, the vivacious, dark-eyed daughter of his secretary. Yet troubling events in her past cause her to rebuff Gus's affections.
Romance glimmers, however, as both become embroiled in an adventure when Gus discovers a mute child shackled to a bedpost in a secluded cabin. The mystery turns deadly when the child's kidnapper escapes on a snowmobile that tumbles into the deep Letchworth Gorge.
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Something clattered on the porch beneath my bedroom window.
Max jumped off the bed and trotted through the hallway toward the stairs, whining softly. I sat up and pulled back the heavy down comforter, allowing chilled air to steal over my body.
Wondering if the noise had been part of a dream, I waited, listening hard in the hushed darkness. Max's toenails clicked on the stairs as he descended and whined again from the first floor – louder this time.
A muffled thud came from the porch.
Baxter. He’s back.
I leapt to my feet, crossing cold floorboards to the foot of the bed. Grabbing my bathrobe, I threw it on and hurried to the window overlooking the parking area and barn. My breath fogged on the glass as I peered outside and my heart beat staccato against my ribs.
A shadow flickered at the edge of my vision. Startled, I scanned the border between the woods and the horse pasture. I strained hard to see, but found nothing amiss. The stirring could have been a nocturnal animal making its meticulous way across the frozen ground, or a heavy fir branch swaying in the wind. Beside the barn, a plume of exhaust puffed into the darkness. The police cruiser was still in position.
Leaving the lights off, I felt my way downstairs. Deep orange coals glowed through the glass door on the woodstove. I searched for Max, finally locating him on the far side of the great room near the front door.
Moonlight reflected from his wiry gray coat and he pressed his nose to the crack at the bottom of the door. I stole to his side, barely breathing.
“What is it, boy?”
His tail wagged once, but he didn’t budge from his vigil. I patted his back and felt hackles rise beneath my fingers. A low growl emerged from his throat.
Icy fingers tap-danced down my spine and a shot of adrenaline surged through my bloodstream. I ran to the mudroom, sliding my bare feet into a pair of felt-lined galoshes, then grabbed Max’s leather leash from the hook on the wall. He remained glued to the door.
I scanned the room for a weapon. Max growled again, issuing a short, warning bark. I sprinted to the hearth and felt among the fireplace utensils, closing my hand around a cast iron poker.
Max pulled hard when I snapped the lead to his collar and opened the door.
A rush of cold air invaded my lungs and my bathrobe flapped in a gust of wind. Max strained hard at his leash, nose in the air. We stepped onto the porch and he immediately pulled to the right, barking wildly as he dragged me toward the corner of the house.
Baxter stood in silence, his face a mask of fury. He wore a red parka and a black ear-flapped hat too small for him, probably stolen from Bill Thompson. Ice crystals had formed on his beard and mustache. His gray eyes glittered and he stepped toward me, clenching and unclenching the axe in his massive fist. My stomach lurched.
“Baxter.” The name rushed from my lips in a harsh whisper.
He spit words with malice, his eyes narrowed to a slit.
“Where’s my daughter, LeGarde?”
Max barked and lunged toward him. I held him back, keeping the leash taut.
“She’s not here. She’s in a foster home in the city.” I lied without hesitation, hoping to divert him from the knowledge that Sadie slept soundly in a bed two miles away.
The light in the carriage house snapped on and Sheba barked in concert with Max. The carriage house door slammed.
He took two steps toward me, brandishing the axe in the air.
“Tell me where she is or I’ll haunt you, LeGarde. I’ll take your family one by one, just like you took my girl.”
Siegfried? Or the cop?
He growled like an animal and swiveled toward the noise, simultaneously hurling the axe toward me.
I sidestepped. It sailed past and thumped heavily onto the porch boards.
“Professor? Was ist los? (What’s wrong?)”
Siegfried called from the snow-packed lawn, fully dressed and brandishing a baseball bat.
I turned to answer, but Baxter tackled me before I could get a word out. The force of his body knocked me over the porch railing and into the snowy ground below, out of sight of Siegfried or the police.
I landed on my face in the snow, my legs pinned under Baxter’s weight. Max barreled around the porch with leash flapping. He raced toward us, barking hysterically. Baxter leaned into me, pummeling my head with his ham-sized fist. He jumped up and kicked my ribs, hard. Max attacked him, tearing at his leg and I tried to rise, in spite of swimming vision, but my legs had tangled in Max’s leash.
“This is just a teaser, LeGarde. If I don’t get Sadie back, expect more. Much more.”
He kicked me again, this time under the chin, and took off toward the woods. I flew back, landing with a thump on my back.
Sitting up slowly, I brushed the crumbs of snow from my hair. The leash had wound itself tightly around my left leg. Max pulled on it, trying to follow Baxter. I unwound my leg and held him back, rubbing the chafed skin on my exposed calf.
“Are you okay, Professor?” Siegfried asked, arriving breathless. He offered me his hand.
A light snapped on from an upstairs window. Harold frowned at me from his bedroom.
I pulled my pajama pant leg down over my scraped leg, stood up with Siegfried's help, and dragged Max to his dog-run, clipping the lead to his collar. He streaked to the end of the seventy-five foot run, continuing with frenzied barking.
I didn’t recognize the police officer who appeared at my side.
“Mr. LeGarde, what happened?”
The officer rested his hand on the butt of his revolver, looking poised for action. I cinched the robe tighter around my waist and looked toward the woods, fingering a large lump forming on my temple.
“It was Baxter. He went that way.”
The young deputy snatched the phone from his belt, shouting into it. I shivered in the biting wind, and walked with Siegfried into the kitchen.
The sweet minor tunes evoked images of Slavic peasants frolicking in the town square around a roaring bonfire.
Double Forte', by Aaron Paul Lazar
Double Forté, the first of the Gus LeGarde series of mysteries written by Aaron Paul Lazar, is a chilling thriller. But this book is such a far cry from the cliché thrillers of today that it is almost the start of a new genre. This book is thriller, mystery, romance, and literature all at once. I could be done by saying it is just plain good writing, but that doesn’t seem fair for a review. I cannot possibly do it justice, but I will attempt to convey some of the unique majesty of this book. However, I will not be able to mention many specifics of the plot for fear of giving it all away.
This book is set neatly in its own world, a beautiful valley in upstate New York. The world is that of Professor LeGarde, a classical musical instruction. Music informs every part of this novel, from his world view to the other characters, the scenes and escalation of action, right down to the prose itself. This is a very musical piece of literature with a varied tempo depending upon the scene, its intensity, such as its romance or fear. A very lyrical read.
But, please do not misunderstand me. This is not a fantasy or whimsical bit of fluff. This is a very serious, very intense novel about real characters. Lazar does a fantastic job getting inside the minds and exploring the emotions that drive all the characters. The world is very solid and presented in such a complete way that you become a part of it. We understand these people and why everything in this book occurs. That is a very nice and rare trick for an author to pull.
Double Forté is a refreshing work of hand-crafted beauty, even given its nail biting nature. Lazar has crafted an original character in LeGarde, one which I am very glad to learn has an entire series dedicated to him. I strongly recommend this book to all fans of James Patterson, Iris Johanson, and Mary Higgins Clark. You will not be disappointed.
c 2005 Thomas Fortenberry
A Symphony for the Senses!
Double Forte' is a symphony for the senses! This clever mystery involves the entire reader, as vibrant descriptions blend with appropriate dialogue and action-filled scenes.
Gus LeGarde could be anyone's next-door neighbor, and readers will instantly connect with this character. When he finds out about a child who may have been kidnapped, his grandfatherly concern steps in with a plan of action. Although he was able to rescue the child, the kidnapper escaped, which leaves a cloud of uncertainty over Gus and his own family. Will they become targets for the kidnapper's revenge?
This book takes readers from breathless chase scenes to the sighs of quiet romantic moments. First and foremost, Gus is a family man. A widower, he lives with his married daughter and her young son. These pages take an intimate and endearing look into their home, allowing readers to see inside the heart of Gus. He has a deep appreciation and talent for music, which enters into the story and provides a subtle beauty. The author's descriptive details of upstate New York, as well as some special family dinners, will give readers a feast for the mind.
This reviewer also appreciated the gentle love and care the animals received. The opening pages involve a touching rescue of a golden retriever, who had been caught in an iron-jawed trap. These first few moments of the story set the mood for the determined helpfulness of the main characters.
Double Forte' gets a well-deserved "Bravo!" from this reviewer.
Joyce Handzo, In the Library Reviews
Double Forte', by Aaron Paul Lazar
Professor Gus LeGarde is a widower with a profound sense of justice and an insatiable curiosity. He loves music, gardening, cooking and his family. Mourning the loss of his wife, Elsbeth, five years earlier, he fills his days by spending time with brother-in-law Siegfried, daughter Freddie and grandson Johnny.
Gus and Sig find a stray dog injured in the woods while skiing and stop at a cabin to call for help. Gus is sure he heard a whimper, but the unfriendly occupant slams the door in his face. Curiosity gets the better of the professor and he returns to find a child shackled to the bed. A chase ensues, with the child and her captive careening over a cliff.
The professor manages to rescue the child but the horror has just begun. Baxter, the child’s kidnapper and biological father, begins a campaign of terror to reclaim his child. Gus and his family are placed in danger first by Baxter and then by the unknown murderer of Gus’ son-in-law’s business partner. The killer threatens the professor’s new romantic interest, Camille, when the police arrive to arrest him. Intrigue and suspense surround the family as page after page; the reader is embroiled in the exciting, mysterious circumstances.
Set in wintry upstate New York, the author uses vivid imagery to capture the reader’s imagination. Characters are realistic and the interplay between them is well presented. The family relationships are solid. Aaron Lazar has a talent for instilling twists and turns to keep the plot moving and the answers to the reader’s questions, just beyond reach. A great book for a quiet afternoon of reading.
Double Forté is the first book in the Gus LeGarde series. Watch for more of this intriguing character from author, Aaron Lazar.
Reviewer: Shirley Roe, Allbooks Reviews.
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