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Monday, December 09, 2013

Red 1-2-3 by John Katzenbach

Red 1-2-3 

From the book description:  Three women. They have nothing in common. They are different ages, come from different background, and lead drastically different lives. The only thing that binds them together is their red hair--and that each of them has been targeted for murder.

How does a novelist who writes murder mysteries develop his plots?  In this case, he commits murders and, with a little adaptation, writes about them.  Although as murderer and novelist, the man has been inactive for years, he makes a decision to write one more murder mystery,  a spectacular last fling in his dual role as author/killer.

Taking hints from the original and more frightening version of Little Red Riding Hood (definitely not the Disney version) in which the woodsman does not save Little Red, the killer sends letters to the three women telling each that she has been selected to die, using the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood as metaphors.

He has studied the three women for months and believes he knows how each will react to his letters.  Amusing himself by predicting each one's behavior in a variety of circumstances, he delights in his ability to taunt and terrify "his" Reds.   

The Reds, however, don't always react according to his predictions.  As frightened and despairing as Karen, Sarah, and Jordan become, each one discovers a component to her personality that has not been previously needed.  And they find each other.

Not only are there incidents that the Big Bad Wolf doesn't predict, there are quite a few that kept me unsure.    These are small turns of events, but they change the game plan, and they prevented me from feeling certain of the outcome.  A good thing in a mystery.

Although there were several little details that niggled, indulging in this alternate version of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf is a puzzle with several surprises, and a villain whose predatory and egotistical nature is disguised by his bland appearance.  The wolf in grandma's clothing.  

Katzenbach has combined two neat plot devices and produced an intriguing mystery.  Think I'll look for more by this author.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press

Mystery.  Jan. 7, 2014.  Print version:  400 pages.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book, especially given the unexpected twists.

  2. Oh, this sounds good! On the wish list with it! :)

  3. Wendy and Kelly - It kept me engaged from beginning to end. An interesting idea for a plot!