4 out of 4 stars
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A female student leaves the college library alone. She is grabbed, dragged behind some bushes, killed, and raped on a small college campus in Harper, Alabama. The sheriff opens an investigation which he feels ill-equipped for because murder is an uncommon occurrence in his jurisdiction. Next, an obese female college student meets her end in the middle of a downtown street. With the mayor pressuring the newspaper editor to keep the news from becoming sensational, public pressure is avoided. A semester break intrudes, and the salience of the murders fades except for the sheriff. From this beginning, we meet the four main characters, an English professor with an unhappy marriage, his randy wife, a less than confident sheriff, and a college counselor.
The English professor’s wife begins an affair with a deputy sheriff, and the professor becomes aware of it. He seeks counseling from the college counselor who suggests hypnosis. This event proves pivotal to the coming events. All the while, the murders fade from the town’s consciousness except for the sheriff who struggles to find the killer. While the killer is revealed with about forty percent of the book left, the tension builds around whether the killer will successfully shift blame to someone else or be discovered.
Murder in Memory by Mike Thorne is an enjoyable character-driven mystery that is both intriguing and enjoyable. The author brings us into the minds of the characters who deal with life much like the rest of us with some successes, some failures, and many self-doubts. He makes most of the characters if not sympathetic at least understandable. The most successful character is the sheriff who must deal with his imposter syndrome and its accompanying self-doubt. He struggles on with the support of his insightful wife. Even the minor characters such as the sheriff’s assistant and the counselor’s receptionist become distinctive personalities in just a few lines.
The author’s able development of the different characters weighs heavily in my rating this book four out of four stars. Also, I found the editing to be top notch with no editing errors. The prose propels the story forward without calling attention to itself. The plot does not have a thriller’s activity nor any almost overwhelming physical challenges. Instead, it moves steadily forward with several semi-climaxes until the final resolution. The challenges demand looking beyond the obvious. The one qualm I have is the use of hypnosis as a means of implanting false memories. Although it seems possible, I had to suspend my disbelief to accept the level of effectiveness depicted in the novel. That reservation aside, the novel concludes with an interesting twist.
Because this is a character based mystery, a reader looking to solve a puzzle that will be revealed in the end will not enjoy this book. Also, the reader thirsting for main characters facing physical challenges or struggling against the elements will be disappointed. Although not a cozy, the book does a fine job of acquainting the reader with interesting characters in a small town setting. The characters and their struggles will stay with the reader after closing after finishing the last page.
Murder in Memory
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