I got a compilmentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. That fact didn’t influence my opinion in any way.
When Ronald Green, a business professor at the local uni, finds out that his former lover, Diane, has been violently murdered, he thinks that from now on his entire life is going to be more difficult. He is wrong. His entire life turns into hell.
Right from their first visit in his office two local police detectives, Jack Hollis and Helen Lipscomb, consider him a suspect. His wife, Lynda, who had known about the affair but never imagined a murder, takes their two kids and moves out. Soon enough the entire campus whispers half-truths and downright lies behind Ron’s back and when he tries to confront them he meets a wall of silence. Some colleagues stop giving him the time of the day, some others pretend that nothing’s happened which is even worse. Ronald knows that, even though he hasn’t been officially charged with anything, let alone arrested or imprisoned, people around him have already declared him guilty. What can be done, especially that more murders follow the first one and the police still think it’s him?
Seeing that nobody has any good idea how to move the investigation forward, Ronald decides to find out the connection between the victims on his own. He hopes to clear his name in the process but all he gets are more troubles. Will he manage to discover the identity of the real culprit before he is ruined financially, jailed and defamed for good?
I liked this book but rather for things it didn’t have than for those it had. Let me explain.
The author managed to avoid most of clichés, plaguing your ordinary thriller – mind you it’s his first published book. The main character, Ronald, your ordinary college prof teaching such ‘exciting’ classes as basic entrepreneurship, was far from being your typical thriller protagonist, a paragon of male handsomeness, all brawn and (almost) no brains. No, he didn’t fall in love during the narration, he was recovering from an affair and then his wife left him so it was only too natural that he wanted some time alone – in my opinion another big asset. Still I bet plenty of authors would pair him with somebody – a female police officer, a colleague or a student – just to get a bigger target audience (allegedly those women who read thrillers, poor things, prefer them with a strong romantic story arc).
What didn’t work for me quite so well was the pace of narration. Our ordinary hero spent in my humble opinion too many pages moping around, drinking himself into oblivion and asking for help his friend, an attorney. After a while it became a bit boring and repetitive until finally poor Ron got a grip on himself, started to think and act. I completely understood his breakdown and I bet it would happen to 99% of people in Ron’s situation – suspected to be a murderer but never officially accused of anything, being judged and punished at work and at home – but in fiction sometimes it’s good to make your character pull him or herself by their proverbial bootstraps rather sooner than later. Also the narrative voice could have been more riveting but I guess you shouldn’t be too demanding with a debut novel. One small tip – make your characters funnier, let them say a witty anecdote or two, it always helps to enliven the story.
When it comes to the murder mystery it was nicely done but one tidbit prevented me from enjoying it thoroughly – perhaps I missed something but in my view the author didn’t give his readers a chance to work it out on their own because he was withdrawing the crucial info concerning the culprit till almost the very end. Finally the main villain. I did love the fact that Ron, when he discovered the whole truth, sympathized with them to some extent (I use ‘them’ because I don’t want to suggest the gender of the murderer). It was really well done, making the whole story a lot more complex than your ordinary whodunnit.
This thriller could have been better but also it could have been far worse – take from a girl who’s read many quite horrible thrillers. Overall I was positively surprised how interesting it was and I never regretted I had accepted it for a review. I wish the author all the best; he definitely has a lot of potential.