Books: Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer

A thriller that’s beautifully written and carefully told is a rare thing. “Man in the Woods,” by Scott Spencer, is that impossible-to-find read that satisfies on multiples levels.

“Will he get away with it?” drives this story peopled by richly drawn, complex characters.

Paul Phillips is a high-priced carpenter whose expertise in restoring old homes put him in the arms of Kate Ellis, a divorcee, smart and witty, mother of young Ruby, best-selling author of a memoir recounting her journey, with God, away from alcohol.

This is the first place that’s felt like home for Paul since he was a boy. Paul is deeply in love with Kate, kind to Ruby and welcoming to his sister Annabelle, who moved to the same Hudson River town.

On his way home from a frustrating day in Manhattan, Paul stops at a state park to clear his head. Walking in the woods, he comes upon a man beating his dog. When the man won’t stop, Paul and he fight to the death. He kills the man.

Eventually, Paul arrives home with the dog he names Shep. Along the way he bashes his truck into a pole to provide reason for his cuts and bruises. Obsessively, he checks media and web sites for news of the death. Nothing. Days go by. How could a man be wiped from this earth with no one noticing, no one caring? “Was there no one out there to come forward and say, Where’s my husband, where is my father, where is my lover, where is the man who worked for me, where is the guy at the next desk, where is my buddy I went to the track with every July, or played cards with, or jogged with, where is the grumpy bastard with the good-looking brown dog?”

Someone cares: not for the man killed but for the dog he’d stolen. Also a Yonkers detective who believes in justice.

Paul can’t bear the weight of his crime and confesses to Kate. Fearing his loss, their household suffers. Poor Ruby acts out in alarming ways, crab walking and chanting curses. Kate loses her faith — doubly alarming because telling her story is her sole source of income. She’s a fraud if she continues, she’s broke if she stops.

The ending of this book left me bereft. It’s not until the very last sentence you get a sense of Paul’s fate, and understand the heartbreak he’ll leave in his wake.

Also in the blog

My friend Margaret rates restaurants the same way I do: foremost, delicious food that’s authentic or inventive. After that, a memorable dining experience comes from setting, tables, chairs, spacing, service, plating, pacing, linens and silverware, noise, lighting, crowd, attitude, cost. Grub to gourmet, there’s more to dining than food. When Margaret declared The Purple Pig


Summer is over, winter is upon us: reading is a constant. One I loved — every single page — is Ian McEwan’s The Children Act. Let’s review my feelings for Mr. McEwan’s work. I thoroughly enjoyed his last two efforts, the spy spoof Sweet Tooth and the environmental satire Solar. Both are wise and well


  This has been a summer like no other. There’s been no trips to our summer place in Quebec, no Bastille Day party with dear friends in Michigan. No outings to movie theaters. Instead, I’ve been walking our beautiful lakefront, parks, and historic neighborhoods. I’ve been swimming laps at our recently re-opened health club. (Bliss,


3 thoughts on "Books: Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer"

  • Georgia says:

    I sent this on to Scott! Can’t wait to read it.Thanks!

  • Elenora Anez says:

    Most of the times i visit a blog I notice that most blogs are amateurish. On the contrary,I have to say that you have done a good job here.

  • I feel like you could probably teach a class on how to make a great blog. This is fantastic! I have to say, what really got me was your design. You certainly know how to make your blog more than just a rant about an issue. Youve made it possible for people to connect. Good for you, because not that many people know what theyre doing.

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