3 out of 4 stars
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Salvager by Lauren Joe Welch is a mystery thriller set in a small town in Vermont called Collinsville. The story follows Mark Sloan, a carpenter by trade, struggling to get by after a tumultuous divorce. His ex-wife got the house he had single-handily remodeled, while he moved into a run-down apartment. She got a nice car, and he got an old truck; she got the two kids, he pays the child support. Life had thrown Mark quite a curve.
When Mark's full-time hours got cut at his carpentry job, he was desperate for an additional source of income. Without any previous experience, he applied for the position of reporter at the local newspaper. Al, the owner, hired him part-time. Before long, he got laid off from his carpentry job. Between his unemployment income and his part-time income from reporting, he barely made ends meet. Mark seemed to have a talent for reporting, and he discovered there were some substantial issues in the town of Collinsville that some people wanted to keep quiet. As he delved into investigating and writing about those issues, disconcerting things began to happen. Such as, his brake lines appeared to have been cut on his truck; a car ran him off the road while he was on his bike, and he suspected someone had been in his apartment and added peanut oil to his salad dressing, knowing he had a severe peanut allergy. Was someone trying to kill him? His reporting had angered several prominent residents of Collinsville who might be seeking revenge. Who wanted to silence Mark?
The storyline of this book is compelling, and the main characters are well developed; however, for a mystery thriller, the pace is slow. There are twists and turns, but none that kept me on the edge of my seat. Welch touches on some of the crucial issues in today's society. For instance, divorce and the effect it has on children; teenage self-mutilation by cutting as a stress reliever; global warming and alternate sources of energy; greed; infidelity; and nursing home mismanagement with patient neglect. However, some of the issues left unanswered questions. Mark's teenage daughter, for instance, became belligerent toward him, and eventually stopped coming with her brother on their weekends with their dad. When she did come, all she talked about was her mother's new live-in boyfriend. After several months of not seeing her at all, Mark's ex-wife informed him Molly had been getting counseling for self-mutilation. However, there was little mention of Molly's problem after Mark learned of it.
What I enjoyed most about this book was Mark's relationship with his son, Seth. I found their heart-to-heart talks endearing. I loved how they enjoyed going fishing or were content just to be hanging out. What I disliked most was the unanswered questions. Did Mark and Molly's relationship ever get better? Did counseling solve Molly's self-mutilation? Why does the same administrator still work at the nursing home? Were the patient neglect issues corrected? Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, and at 178 pages, it is a short read; however, I would have preferred more pages, if necessary, to find out how Mark's relationship with his daughter, Molly, turned out. The book does keep the reader guessing who the antagonist is, and the ending fits well with the story and is a bit surprising.
I cannot say the book had professional editing. There were multiple errors, mainly in punctuation, which was distracting. Due to the number of mistakes, I cannot give this book a perfect score. However, I did like the author's easy and relatable writing style, as well as the concept of the story. Therefore, I am giving Salvager by Lauren Joe Welch 3 out of 4 stars. There is some profanity not suitable for younger readers, and there is one instance that pertains to sex but nothing graphic or erotic. I recommend this book to those who enjoy a good mystery and don't mind a slow pace.
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