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LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED by Jeff Hoffmann: Book Review

I’ve written frequently about secrets, how they can be dangerous and deadly for one to keep.  Now multiply one by four, and you have the plot of Like It Never Happened.

The four high school friends had once been close, so close that they called each other “brother.”  It was always Tommy, Kevin, Malcolm, and Henry.  As the saying goes, it was “one for all and all for one,” as it appeared in The Three Musketeers.  But in the local edition of the paper he’s reading, Tommy sees Kevin’s obituary, and now there are only three.  And the remaining men are no longer close at all.

Although it’s awkward to do, given all the time the three have been out of touch with each other, Tommy decides he has to let the others know of Kevin’s death.  Googling them, he finds that Malcolm is an uber-successful attorney in Chicago and Henry is a businessman in Denver.  After hearing Tommy’s news, the men and Henry’s wife Alice, who also knew Kevin, decide to attend the wake in Milwaukee later in the week.

Although all the men are successful professionally, their family lives have suffered.  Tommy, who on the surface seems to have the happiest home life, has a nineteen-year-old daughter who is estranged from her mother and who barely talks to Tommy.  Malcolm’s wife is ready to move out of the multi-million dollar mansion she never wanted and start a new life for herself and their young daughter.  Alice is also ready to leave her husband now that she has discovered not only his sexual affair but the lifelong residue it has left behind.

Feeling extremely uncomfortable at the funeral home, the men and Henry’s wife are confronted by Kevin’s widow Naomi, who stuns them by saying that Kevin’s will is going to be read the following day and that “he left something for the three of you.”

Many of us have something in our past that we prefer to think of “as if it never happened.”  But it did happen, and the longer one holds onto a secret, the more damaging it becomes.  It’s like a pebble in your shoe; you can pretend it’s not there and you can walk with it, but you are hobbled by the pebble and can’t ignore it.  That’s what has happened in the lives of Tommy, Malcolm, and Henry.  On the surface the three men seem happy in their marriages and careers, but the surface is very thin, and the pebble/secret can’t be dismissed.

Jeff Hoffman has written an absorbing and tense crime novel.  He gives us tantalizing glimpses throughout the book about the incident that has haunted the men since their high school days, but we have to keep turning the pages to find out the whole story.  His portraits of Tommy, Henry, and Malcolm are brilliantly drawn, each becoming a fully realized character as the book progresses, and the plot and its conclusion are masterful.

You can read more about Jeff Hoffman at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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