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Update  May, 2019

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Book Review

A gravesite meeting starts David Baldacci’s thriller

Jeff Ayers

In David Baldacci’s latest novel “Redemption”, Amos Decker and his FBI partner Alex Jamison arrive in a small town in Ohio where Decker was a detective for several years. He visits his family’s gravesite every year on his daughter’s birthday. This year someone else is at the graveyard as well.

Meryl Hawkins looks vastly different to Decker, so he doesn’t recognize him at first. Hawkins was Decker’s first homicide case, and he was found guilty and given life in prison without the possibility of parole. So how can he be a free man now?

Hawkins reveals that he is terminally ill, and only has a little bit of time to live. He was released for compassionate reasons, and the first thing he did was track down Decker to inform him that the former cop and now FBI consultant made a mistake all those years ago. He never committed the murders, and the real culprit is still at large.

Decker can replay every memory, and his by-the-book approach has been successful for him so far, and the evidence was rock solid. Convicting Hawkins was easy. But why would a dying man seek him out if he wasn’t innocent?

His boss at the FBI wants Decker to move on, but he can’t. If he was wrong, he has to make it right. When he follows up with Hawkins at his hotel room, he’s surprised to find the former convict already dead, but due to a gunshot wound to the head rather than cancer. Now he won’t rest until he finds the truth, even at the expense of his colleagues at the FBI and his former associates in the police department who used to work alongside him.

Baldacci turns up the suspense and surprises at a rapid pace in “Redemption” without sacrificing character or story. With the personal stakes and the steep learning curve that Decker must overcome to find justice, the narrative carries a heavier emotional impact. Essentially, this is another great novel from a master storyteller. (AP)

McMahon’s ‘The Invited’ is a powerful novel

Oline H. Cogdill

Jennifer McMahon again proves that the modern ghost story is more than things that go bump in the night. It hinges on reality, slowly building to a terror that seems real and sometimes personal, as it does in McMahon’s highly entertaining “The Invited.”

McMahon’s powerful novel supplies a plethora of frights that emerge from believable characters trying to navigate normal lives.

Helen and Nate Wetherell have good jobs at an elite private school in Connecticut. He teaches science, she teaches history. They live in a nice condo and try not to live outside their means. But Helen’s ennui is palatable — vanishing only when she volunteers in a “living museum” that recreates life in the mid-1800s for visitors. While happily married, the couple’s life seems set in stone until Helen inherits a large sum of money when her father dies.

The opportunity to change their lives is irresistible. They buy 44 heavily wooded acres just outside the small rural village in Vermont on which the avid do-it-yourselfers plan to build their dream home. That the land is believed to be haunted by Hattie Breckenridge who was hanged as a witch on the property in 1924 is a kind of a bonus, especially appealing to the historian in Helen. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she does believe in history.

Helen may have to rethink her views when strange things happen at the dilapidated trailer on the land where they are staying. Eerie packages are left on the doorstep; items such as cellphones, wallets and money disappear, and what looks like Hattie’s ghost hovers over the land’s bog. These supposedly supernatural happenings may be a way of scaring away the couple because legend has it that Hattie buried treasure on the land. One of the locals who most wants the couple gone is their 14-year-old neighbor, Olive Kissner, whose mother promised to find the treasure before the woman supposedly ran away.

McMahon keeps “The Invited” grounded in reality, even when spirits supposedly hover over the land. The Wetherells’ relationship is well designed with the building of their house serving as a metaphor for their marriage — with some construction going smoothly, collapsing at other times. Helen’s embracing their new home’s myths is nicely balanced by Nate’s skepticism. And McMahon doesn’t forget the little details of life. A ghost spotting pales when planning a household budget, especially when you’ve quit your job. (AP)



HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

A gravesite meeting starts David Baldacci’s thriller

McMahon’s ‘The Invited’ is a powerful novel