Heat Factor: It’s euphemistic until it’s not
Character Chemistry: Long distance is probably worth it, right?
Plot: A professor of criminology with a true crime podcast hobby gets a mysterious and threatening letter regarding an unsolved missing persons case nearly twenty years old, and just when he thinks nobody cares, a sexy FBI agent shows up at the victim’s disappearance vigil to help solve the mystery
Overall: I was in the mood for romantic suspense, and it really hit the spot
I haven’t read a ton of books by Josh Lanyon, but what I have read tells me that she’s an extremely capable suspense writer. This book, based on the real-life mystery of missing UMass student Maura Murray, is not an exception. Perhaps it helps that it’s a cold case—both victims disappeared in 2004—and that the setting—a vigil attended by not only the victim’s family but also by a horde of true crime internet personalities and their fans—is a place where everyone already knows all of the relevant facts. There aren’t many stones to turn, nor is there need for red herrings. The mystery exists because the narrator, Skylar, has received threatening correspondence relating to the disappearance, which makes him think he might be onto something and also that he might be able to do something about it. (Especially because all of his letters to various law enforcement entities have gone unheard.)
In terms of the mystery, I was drawn in immediately. Crumbs were doled out to explain all the facts, so there wasn’t any data dumping, but also it was extremely tight, so there weren’t many opportunities for me to ask why the characters were focusing in one direction rather than fifty others. It probably helps that this is not a crime invented from the author’s imagination; she acknowledges that, while all of the townspeople are entirely fictitious, many of the facts of the case are lifted from the real-life crime. That said, unlike with the still unsolved disappearance of Murray, we the readers are able to have a satisfying conclusion to the disappearance of Dierdre (if we count solving the mystery as satisfying, because I have to say the confession of what happened to her body was pretty grizzly).
In terms of character development and story structure, my only quibble is that a couple elements shifted too quickly. The biggest one is that the ending, while definitely tied up in a nice bow and not unnecessarily belabored, was rather abrupt. This is a novella, and there wasn’t, perhaps, much to add, but the storyline went more like this:
Than like this:
While I don’t read a ton of mysteries (and even fewer mystery novellas), I have read enough (plus all those romance novels) that I guess I’ve become accustomed to a more drawn out conversation surrounding the solution and motive than what we got here.
With respect to the relationship, I’d advise the reader to be prepared for things to shift from “no” to “yes” very quickly. Initially Skylar is wary and mistrustful of Rory, but as soon as Rory confirms his identity Skylar immediately trusts him. From there, we go from “I’d have sex with him but I don’t trust him” to “Let’s get down to business and, beyond this weekend, we won’t let a little long distance get in our way.” It is a novella, and the POV is all Skylar’s, so the romance is not as much of a focus as it would be in a non-suspense genre romance, but these guys really don’t work for it at all. Which, I suppose, is the way things might go in real life, but isn’t typically the point of a romance.
All this to say: if you want an engaging mystery with a little bit of sexy romance, then this might be right up your alley.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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