This is a non-series thriller from the writing duo who are better known for their Jeff and Haila Troy series. My favourite of these is The Frightened Stiff and is probably followed by Made Up to Kill; their debut appearance. However, my reading experience with the Troys has been mixed and there have been a few in which Haila drove me up the wall, sorry, didn’t quite work for me.
The opening of the book flits around various parts of the states, honing in on a particular woman each time. Some of these women are successful, some have seen better days. Some are married and happily so, some are not. However what unites them all is that many years ago they were dancers in a somewhat scandalous show, which ran for a year. One of the backers, nicknamed Bobo, has held a reunion at his home at Martha’s Vineyard, each year for the women and it is a telegram from Bobo that all of the women we are introduced to, receive; inviting them to the latest 3 day reunion.
Added into the reunion is a young lawyer named Brady Smith. He is there to find one of the women, Mary McLane, who is entitled to her inheritance her from now legally declared dead husband. She is supposed to be picked up later that night, after concluding some business and everyone is keen to see her again, after she went off the radar for 7 years when her husband was presumed to have fallen off a cliff whilst drunk. Yet the next morning, when one of the women goes to her room, a body with their face bashed in is discovered. All I will say is, is that it is not who you were expecting… The police suspect an inside job and it is up to them and Brady to crack the suspects and their conveniently appearing spouses, to discover the dirt beneath the friendly veneers.
This is one of those annoying reads in which the writers give you a surprisingly intriguing puzzle to solve, yet dash your hopes of a good read by handling it in a lazy fashion. We have a cold case element, we have the issue of victim identity, we have a missing person and some very slippery witness testimony. The build up to the first death is wonderfully done and further deaths only heighten the tension and mystery. The initial crime is one which elicits a lot of questions from the reader and gets them thinking as there are multiple interpretations as to what happened.
Yet, as you were expecting, there is a but and that but is the uneven execution of the plot. As you can see above the skeleton of the book has a number of strong components to recommend itself and there are one or two skilfully drawn scenes. But these are lost within a novel which is operating under looser thriller genre rules and in some places the pace begins to drag a lot. Brady is the character we follow yet his amateur sleuthing is somewhat ad-hoc and lacks any organisation or purpose. It aimlessly wanders between trying to find people and then happening upon something else, which is one of the reasons the pace slackens in the middle of the story. The Roos also adopt the technique of throwing a lot of new information at the reader only when the solution is being unfolded, which undermines the impressiveness of the final showdown.
Perhaps if this book had been written earlier on in the Roos’ career, they might have given it a more puzzle-clue mystery focus, and if they had, I think it really could have reached its full potential.
Just the Facts Ma’am (Gold Card): Author’s First Name Begins with the Same Letter as Mine