Ten Days Gone
Ten Days Gone is the first book in Beverly Long’s police procedural series featuring detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan. They work for the police force in a small midwestern town which is being terrorized by a serial killer. The mystery was compelling and the characters intrigued me, and yet I came away from this novel with a feeling of slight dissatisfaction, almost like an itch that hadn’t been scratched.
Four women have been brutally slain in the last forty days, and Rena and A.L. are desperate to uncover the killer’s identity before another victim is claimed. Unfortunately, it’s proving extremely difficult to figure out who the killer is and who his next victim is likely to be. The previous murders took place every ten days, and A.L. is certain the murderer will not deviate from this pattern so time is short and the stakes are incredibly high.
Both A.L. and Rena are very dedicated detectives, but both are dealing with quite a bit of emotional upheaval in their personal lives. Rena and her husband are in the midst of infertility treatments, and Rena is beginning to wonder if he has been unfaithful to her. A.L. has a strained relationship with his ex-wife and teenaged daughter, and his beloved sister Liz has walked out of an in-patient treatment center yet again, causing him to wonder if she’ll ever be able to get a handle on her alcoholism. Needless to say, both detectives have very full plates, so it isn’t always easy for them to focus 100% of their attention on the job.
As the clock continues to tick and pressure mounts from all sides, A.L. and Rena are pushed to their every limit as they struggle to figure out who the next victim will be. Eventually, their investigation leads them to Tess, a woman with a darkly tragic past who seems to be directly in the killer’s sights. They do their best to warn her of the impending danger, but Tess is battling her own personal demons and doesn’t seem to care whether she lives or dies. Together, Rena and A.L. set out to keep Tess safe, even if this endeavor ends up costing them everything they hold dear.
A.L. seems to be the main character in this story. We see most things from his perspective, but there are several chapters told from Rena’s point of view as well. A.L. is kind of cold and aloof, so isn’t the easiest character for the reader to warm up to. It’s obvious he loves his family, but he always seems to keep them at arm’s length. I’m hoping the reasons for his behavior will be explained more fully as the series progresses, but as it stands in book one, I found myself pretty frustrated by his emotional distance from those around him.
Rena is A.L.’s opposite in almost every way. She feels things deeply, sometimes too much so. She’s prone to jumping to conclusions before she has all the facts, but fortunately this only seems to be a problem in her personal life. She’s a very thorough investigator. I did feel bad for her husband on more than one occasion since she’s prone to making outlandish accusations against him.
Reading this, you probably think I expect the characters I read about to be perfect specimens of humanity, but that’s not it at all. I love when the people I’m reading about feel authentic, especially when they experience some growth over the course of the novel, and Ms. Long’s characters do grow. However, just as we don’t like every person we encounter in our daily lives, not all characters work for all readers, and I simply didn’t connect with Rena and A.L. as much as I was hoping I would.
There’s a coarseness to Ms. Long’s writing that irritated me at times. It’s not that she doesn’t write well or that I didn’t understand the points she was making. It’s more that her style failed to strike a chord with me. It put me in mind of a hard-boiled detective novel, and I’ve never been a fan of those types of stories.
The novel’s pacing was quite good, and I was invested enough to care how things would turn out in the end, but I can’t say Ten Days Gone is a book I loved. I’ll probably check out the next installment in the series simply to see what’s next for Rena and A.L., but it’s probably a book I’ll end up checking out from the library rather than one I’d buy.