Dead Right is the third and final book in a compelling trilogy. This last installment is fantastically written. Ms. Novak will take you on a suspenseful journey, unraveling a mystery that is sure to keep you on edge of your seat.
The disappearance of her father, a well-respected minister, in the small, sleepy town of Stillwater Mississippi, still haunts Madeline Barker. Her father went missing almost 20 years ago, and during that entire time, Madeline has been preoccupied with solving the mystery of his disappearance. Several in Stillwater think the reverend is dead, and that her step-siblings – Grace and Clay – along with her stepmother Irene, are somehow responsible. Madeline is determined to uncover the truth, and in desperation, hires private investigator Hunter Solozano.
Hunter recently went through a bitter divorce, and is trying to maintain a relationship with his estranged daughter. While not immediately excited about the case, he has enough insight to realize that he needs some distance from his issues, and that a change of scenery might help him get his life back on track. Madeline’s first impression of Hunter leaves much to be desired. However, he is the best at what he does, and he soon proves that point.
It is quickly apparent what happened to the good reverend and who is responsible, but Novak still manages to write a tense, suspenseful novel. Madeline’s inner struggles are brilliantly explored. As more details emerge about her father’s life, the more terrified Madeline feels. There is a tense struggle between wanting to know the truth, yet denying it. In Hunter the author creates a skillful, intelligent private investigator who cares deeply for Madeline. He wants to uncover the truth so that she can have some peace. The tug of war she wages with herself, and with Hunter is compellingly developed, and heart-breaking.
There are several scenes in this novel that are incredibly difficult to read. The reverend had deep, dark, disturbing secrets, and did reprehensible things. These scenes are intense, and graphic. Novak definitely pushes the envelope for this genre and I applaud her for doing so.
All that said, though, the book isn’t perfect. It’s clear that Madeline remains deeply traumatized by her father’s disappearance, and it’s equally clear that her family wants to protect her by keeping secrets. But the more I read about the reverend, the less convinced I was that it was necessary for her family to keep her in the dark for so long. Also, although it comes across quite well that Madeline and Hunter care about each other, too little time is spent on the romantic aspect of their relationship. Much of their interaction is fraught with tension, and while these scenes are well written, I wanted to see more of the flirtation, and their falling in love. The scenes where they do make love are much too brief.
In the end, these shortcomings did not take away from my enjoyment of this book. I strongly suggest reading the first two books of this series. Each book builds on the other, and fills in pieces of this mystery so that Dead Right wonderfully wraps up this compelling, and very well-written trilogy. Ms. Novak, you have a new fan.