‘Faults’ serves up a fast-paced whodunnit on the tennis court

If you drew up a schematic diagram showing the relationships between the characters in Orion Gregory’s “Faults,” your head would spin. But then step back, admire this literary spider’s web, and picture it as the storyboard for a fun, fast-paced mystery of whodunnit and who is still trying to do it.

I don’t often say this, but I flew through “Faults’” 350 pages at breakneck speed. It was an easy and most enjoyable read about a 24-year-old up-and-coming tennis player struggling to pay her rent but on the verge of cracking the upper echelon of her sport at a major tournament.

Oh yeah, and did I say someone is trying to kill her?

GAME, SET, MURDER

The full title of the book is “Faults - Not All Are Forgiven.” Someone believes he or she has a score to settle with Sydney Livingstone for past behavior and makes it an obsession to exact revenge.

When Syd shows up for the Mainspring Mutual Open in Silverhill, Ohio, she hopes to advance past the qualifying round and draw a modest paycheck to help make ends meet. She comes to the MMO with decent creds and a respectable game but has never quite distinguished herself on the tour.

As she goes about her routine, there are several odd occurrences: a strange delivery to her hotel room, a cryptic message scratched on the side of her rental car, and the unexplainable disappearance of her first-round opponent.

The author introduces us anonymously to the potential killer, who becomes a temporary narrator every few chapters and shares his or her thoughts: “Part of me wants Sydney to win this match, while the other part wants her to lose disgracefully ... Planning to kill someone is easy. But what good is revenge if I spend my remaining days confined in a claustrophobic cell dreaming about nothing?”

SO MANY SUSPECTS, NO ONE TO TRUST

So who is the killer? Gregory is not sparing in offering up many suspects and intriguing characters: Anja, a former doubles partner; Anja’s lover Belov; Enzo, Syd’s friend and lover; Enzo’s pal Victor; her estranged father, who suddenly returns to Syd’s life; her unofficial coach Russo; Cassandra, one of the leading female players; and her friend Nicole, who owns one of the world’s most exotic spider collections.

Along the way, there is reason to suspect each and every one of these cast members. Syd constantly has to ask herself who she can trust.

Then there is Trent, the detective investigating the matter and, along with his team, providing protection for Syd throughout the tournament. Trent’s activities and interviews with persons of interest keep the mystery moving.

THIS LIVELY MYSTERY KEEPS YOU GUESSING

In “Faults,” Gregory has created everything from a clever title to a breezy, lively read that snatches readers from the outset and holds them to the ultimate reveal. The characters are well defined; you buy into them and try to interpret and constantly reassess their intentions. The more you hear from the killer, the more insight you gain into his or her character and the more you start putting two and two together.

This mystery thriller keeps you guessing. Never were tennis great Rafael Nadal’s words more appropriate: “I play each point like my life depends on it.”

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