I am not usually into books that are a part of a series, or detective stories, which this is, but I respect the author, E. Michael Helms, and agreed to review his novel. I quickly found myself liking the main character PI Mac McClellan, even though he gives his dog beer. This was the give away to me that the novel was written through a male’s perspective because it was something my husband used to do his dog, while I thought it was terrible. Helms has an engaging and very personal writing style. He incorporated his Marine background into his main character, which I especially enjoyed (since I read his memoir “Proud Bastards: One Marine’s Journey from Parris Island through the Hell of Vietnam”). I could hear the author’s own voice in this novel, and it is a pleasant voice to get to know.
In this novel, the protagonist’s girlfriend is part of a paranormal investigative group which is why this “whodunit” has ghosts with potential supernatural actions that lead to murders. Our skeptic PI suspects there are more than spirits doing the killing. There are strong shades of Philip Marlowe in this novel. I could almost see Bogie (Humphrey Bogart) with a cigarette between his teeth. Though, I personally found Mac to be more of a soft-hearted tough guy. My only criticism is that the characters seemed one dimensional, but that might be because I haven’t read the previous three novels in the series. All and all, this is a good beach book (if you don’t mind homicide on your beach) with likable characters and enough twists to keep you guessing. If you are into detective stories, give PI Mac McClellan a try, I do not think you will be disappointed.
I would like to thank the E. Michael Helms for giving me the opportunity to be able to say that he can write and excel in any genre.
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So many different thoughts went through my mind while reading this novel. First, I resigned myself to read another contemporary thriller (not my fav) that needs to be reviewed. Then early in the book I thought “this is very well written,” more literary than bestseller-like. Next, the story became Gothic, a genre I do enjoy. Plus, it also has a noir feel which is another genre that I love to get lost in. So, to my surprise, I am pleased that I read this book. It is not until the very end of the story that I find criticism with the tale. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The story begins with a short chapter describing an old farmhouse and all the people that once lived there. The first family that we meet is a married couple with three sons trying to keep the farm alive in horrendous conditions born from poverty. The parents die in the house and the boys are left orphaned. The next family who moves into the house is a young married couple with a little girl. They buy the farmhouse for almost nothing since it went into foreclosure. The town’s people held that against the young couple. The new owners are city people who move to the country for the husband’s job as a professor at a small college. The “whodunit” begins in the first chapter when the professor comes home from work and finds his wife murdered in her bed. The three sons who first lived in the farmhouse are in all other chapters of the book.
There are no quotation marks anywhere in the novel. The author expects the reader to be smart enough to know who said what. I enjoyed this style of writing it keeps me on their toes. There are many characters in this book that can feel overwhelming, but they are tied together nicely, and I enjoyed each one’s part in the plot. It read similar to “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout, where the characters were interconnected short stories. In addition, the author adds a large dose of irony into her novel. The professor’s boss is a big fan of Emanuel Swedberg who is best known for his book on the afterlife, “Heaven and Hell” written in 1758.
The last chapter focuses on the little girl who is now all grown up and in her last stages of training to become a surgeon. The reason why the ending is a bit of a disappointment for me is that I thought the author was attempting to add romance into the plot. In hindsight, it may have been karma (if I explain it would be a spoiler). Still, all in all, this is a literary spellbinding page-turner that is a ghost story, as well as a psychological thriller. Was I displeased with the ending? Yes, that is true. Did I need to sleep with the lights on? Yes, that is also true. Read the book and see if you cease to appear.
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