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IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ME by Alex Finlay: Book Review

A familiar scene–high school seniors Ryan and Ali are sitting in a car in a secluded spot.  Then, out of nowhere, one of the doors opens, Ryan is knocked out with a blow to his head.  When he regains consciousness, Ali and the car are gone.

Five years later, Ryan has completed his first year of law school at Georgetown.  He’s on an alumni-funded trip to Italy, a perk for the editorial board of the school’s law review, and when he returns to his room after a few hours at a local bar, there’s an envelope under his door.  “I need to see you.  Tomorrow, 10 a.m. at the palazzo.  I know who you are.”

After the terrifying episode with Ali, Ryan was the suspect in her disappearance.  The police found it hard to believe that he had been attacked so severely that he didn’t regain consciousness until the next morning, that he hadn’t put up any fight, that he didn’t know what happened to his girlfriend.  The official police questions and the comments from internet trolls eventually quieted down, but Ryan couldn’t put it all behind him.

Trying to start college with a clean slate he legally changed his last name, so that the name that his college and law school friends know him by is not his birth name.  But now apparently there’s someone out there who knows.

Back in Ryan’s home town of Lawrence, Kansas, Poppy McGee is the new deputy sheriff.  She’s hoping that her military experience will help her in her new job, but she’s not sure of herself and her skills.  Then, on her first day on the job, a car is found submerged in a local lake, and when it’s pulled out it’s discovered that it’s Ali’s car.

If Something Happens to Me is told in several voices, all of them compelling.  The first is Ryan’s, who has never forgotten his first love and now, despite the possible danger, is determined to follow the clues left in the unsigned letter.

The second voice is Poppy’s, and she’s discovering some upsetting things about how the investigation into Ali’s disappearance was handled five years earlier, the first that the lake hadn’t been searched when the young woman disappeared.  Poppy has liked and trusted the sheriff since her childhood, especially since her father was in Iraq with him, but now she’s beginning to have some uncomfortable questions.

Shane O’Leary’s voice is the third.  He’s the father of Anthony, a teenaged boy who doesn’t fit in anywhere.  Then, surprisingly, Anthony is invited to a school party where the “cool kids” are; it turns into a violent, humiliating evening with him as the victim.  But those other teenagers don’t know who Anthony’s father is and what he will do to even the score.

Alex Finlay brings all these threads together into a spellbinding mystery that skillfully combines murder, revenge, and love.  The plot is brilliant, the characters totally believable, and the suspense just keeps building and building.

You can read more about the author 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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