by Tami Hoag
Tami Hoag has written a real pager turner here (no spoilers). Some of her recent efforts (The Alibi Man Prior Bad Acts), in my opinion were not up to her earlier work but Deeper Than The Dead is good. The story is set in suburban California in 1985. Four elementary school children find a body on their way home from school. Their teacher, Ann Navarone, arrives on the scene to help the children with this horrific event. The murder is soon seen as the work of a serial killer. FBI profiler Vince Leone, a new and untested breed of law enforcement officer, arrives to help. Hoag presents the family life of each of the four children and we are introduced to dysfunctionality in each of these families. The children narrate the story and it is an effective method in revealing key facts in the murder investigation. The dysfunction extends to the local police department where small town politics and ignorance prevent the investigation from proceeding in an efficient fashion. All of the major characters (Ann, Vince, and most of the children’s parents) have back stories that when revealed influence the investigation. Hoag is good at giving just enough clues to keep you thinking but not enough to give away the murderers identity.
One of the key plot elements is that in 1985 modern forensic techniques are not yet available. Not only does this set of circumstances limit the investigative options it also exquisitely slows the action as cell phones and internet searches are not available. All of this allows for the suspense to build. There is a love story but it is pretty thin in the telling. There were also a couple of loose ends that were not tied up, at least one unidentified skull and one untried child molester. Perhaps there is a sequel in the making that will answer some of these questions.
I enjoyed this book – read it in record time- but again am sure I will not remember the plot in two weeks time. I haven’t yet figured out how to change my book rating quill system to use fractions but I’d give this thriller a 3.5.