A man cannot free himself from the past any more easily than he can from his own body. Andre Maurois.
One of the things that fascinates me about parenthood is that we do not just give our children DNA. Along with all our little genetic quirks, we also pass on those quirks – emotional, habitual – we picked up from our parents, and they picked up from theirs. And we pass on history. For some, for whom that history can be painful, it is a thought that can easily keep you up at night. This novel captures that feeling perfectly.
Jody Linder should be one of the happiest people around. In her small town of Rose, Kansas, where she now works as a teacher, she is a golden child. Her grandparents own the most prosperous ranch, and she has always been one of the most beloved people. But Jody’s popularity came at a price; 20 years ago Billy Crosby shot her father, and while her mother’s body has never been found, she is presumed dead as well. Now her three uncles come to the door with some disturbing news. Billy Crosby is about to be freed from prison on technicalities.
Collin Crosby’s entire life was lived under the shadow of his father’s crime. It could have been worse; the town originally took what his father did out on him and his mom, but the Linders put a stop to that. He is not proud of the fact that one of his first actions as a lawyer must seem like poor repayment to them; he has helped get his father out of prison. Certain knowledge of his father’s innocence has convinced him he did the right thing. But he failed to take into account that with the scapegoat cleared of blame, the real killer now faces the possibility of justice. And that is something that just might drive a man in hiding violently out into the open.
Collin and Jody are great characters. Their shared history has kept them apart but also kept them curious about and hyper-aware of each other for years. Now, as Collin frees a father he does not love, Jody finds herself drawn to finding out just what happened on the fateful night that has marked both their lives since early childhood.
Jody is a free spirit in many ways and essentially a very happy person. The credit for that goes to her Linder grandparents and uncles, who saw to it that she received as much, if not more, love than she would have with her parents alive. The Linders are great people, almost but not quite crossing the line into too good, and Jody grows up to be a pretty neat person too. Because I know this is a personal pet peeve for some, I should let you know she begins the book with one man while ending up with another. I liked how she handled both relationships. I don’t want to give too much away though, since I think the romance at the end is supposed to be a surprise.
Collin was a harder character for me. I thought his conviction about something involving the night of the crime was a bit presumptuous. I also thought the lack of planning he had made for his father’s homecoming left a lot of people in a vulnerable position, which didn’t exactly impress me. On the other hand, he was a kind, sensitive, intelligent guy and that did impress me. I thought the mistakes he made were made as a result of his youth and that made them both understandable and more forgivable.
I found Jody’s unraveling of the crime utterly fascinating. It made sense to me that she didn’t start asking the hard questions till now since they had the supposed killer behind bars. And it was fascinating to see how parents change from just parents into people with multiple layers and numerous problems as their past starts to come to light. Both the reason Collin’s father was accused of the crime and the reason the sheriff’s department virtually railroaded him will make sense to anyone who has ever lived in a secluded community like Rose. And Jody’s feelings as she discovers the mom and dad she could never quite remember made sense as well.
Deftly handled here was the buildup of the crime, the eventual solving of it and the intertwining of the characters. It was easy to imagine why young Collin and Jody would be fascinated by each other and easy to understand why they shared a bond which no one else could share with them. It was easy to see how some form of the night in question was inevitable given the players involved. And the mystery, while very ordinary on one hand, became something that totally gripped me the further I got into it. I also found that the killer’s justification really made sense. Not that I agreed with it of course, but I think all too often people justify things – big things – exactly this way. That brought a very human aspect to some rather inhumane behavior and gave a lot of depth to the character.
My quibbles with the book were with why Collin was so certain his father didn’t commit the crime and what was found in the museum basement. As one character aptly puts it, what was in the box could have been thrown out. Easily. And despite Collin’s insistence, people with equally important guard duties have failed with even the best of intentions. But aside from those minor flaws, this is a near perfect suspense novel. I can heartily recommend it to any fan of that genre.
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