Monday, November 3, 2014

Emmy's Book Review - The River is Dark

Barb gave me this book as a gift right after she finished reading it, and told me I would love it.  She was right.  I very rarely give any book five stars, but this one is worthy of every one.  I’m hoping it will get picked up and made into a movie, because it would play very well as one.  Maybe starring Mark Wahlberg…..hmmm….yeah I could buy him in this role.  

This book starts with a bang - literally, the bang of two people being brutally murdered and their preteen child running and hiding for his life. Imagine the voice of a little boy whispering in your ear: “A Monster is killing my parents….”   If that beginning didn’t grab you from the very start, then my friend, I invite you to check your blood pressure.  

Liam Dempsey is an ex cop, a homicide detective.  He lives alone, has issues, is possibly suicidal and obviously depressed.  He speaks of thinking of the Sig in the top of his closet daily, and is no longer on any police force.  Why?  That’s just the second secret in this twisty mind bender of a tale.  One bright morning Liam is contemplating nothing more than heading into town when his phone rings.  His brother Allen, and his wife Suzie were killed the night before in a home invasion.  Allen and Liam had not spoken in several years - since their father’s funeral in fact.  Twenty years before Allen moved to Tallston, Minnesota and opened a medical practice there.  And it is to Tallston that Liam travels, to deal with the grim duties left to the next of kin.  No sooner than he hits town he is told that there was another murder, another double homicide, just the week before. 

Ironically his brother and wife were good friends with the first murdered couple, the Shevlins.  Their little boy, Eric, whose pov the first chilling few pages is in, is in a coma, and no one knows if he will come out of it. Liam speaks to the Sheriff, who is more than happy to let Liam do his own poking around. Liam reunites with Suzie’s cousin Dani, also in town as the next of kin.  They danced together at Allen and Suzie’s wedding, and Liam has never forgotten her since.  I wondered if there wasn’t some more to that, if they hadn’t had some sort of deeper relationship years before as well.  Face it, how many people do you remember that fondly that you danced with once, twenty odd years ago?  There is no indication that there was an affair between them, but the possibility never left his mind.  

Liam and Dani visit Allen and Suzie’s home, then find a key there to the Shevlin’s home as well.  Wanting to investigate the connection between the two couples, they head over to the Shevlin’s house in the dead of night, in a rainstorm.  If that wasn’t creepy enough, the information that they glean there should pique your interest.  Jerry Shevlin had his fingers in more than a couple of financial pies around town, including a big land deal across the river that has part of the town up in arms.  A company called Colton Inc is trying to buy up the land to develop it.  But an attacker angry about a land deal doesn’t account for the viciousness of the attack on both couples - they were chopped to pieces!  That’s rage, not money!  

I kept coming back to the other secret connection that they had, the fact that the Shevlin’s had a baby that died in childbirth.  Allen would have been their doctor at the time, but they decided to have their baby at home, at the mother’s wishes.  What I kept coming back to was the fact that they buried the baby in the backyard.  Can people do that anymore? Why in the world would you want to, so you can look out of your kitchen window every morning and see your child’s grave?  I simply could not grasp what would possess someone to want to do that.  Maybe it’s just me, but that struck me as morbid as hell.  But all of that was ancient history, so Liam focuses on the land deal possibly being a motive for the killings.  When another man connected with Colton is murdered, he is sure that it is the same person doing the killing, despite the lack of connection with the land and his brother.  

Liam and Dani soldier on, while more and more secrets and drama pile up around them.  Small towns, man, I live in one, I know how they work.  Everybody has secrets, and it all comes to a head in this novel.  Liam’s secrets are also revealed near the climax of the novel, and let me tell you, they are a humdinger as well.   I would not be surprised to learn that Joe Hart is a fan of both Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe.  I hesitate to say one more thing about this plot, for fear of giving the whole thing away.  As I mentioned earlier, I could easily see this as a movie.  It was non stop action, with twisty, complicated secrets that kept me guessing until the very end.  And what an end!!  There’s grip marks on my Kindle now!    I love a good suspense story, I love trying to figure out “whodunit”.  I did NOT see the ending coming, and it’s not often that a book like this surprises me.  Any author that can, considering the amount of books in this genre I have read, is worth a second look. I will be looking for more from this author very soon.

** Next up on the review train: Enslaved by Elisabeth Naughton

Until then, keep it creepy,

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