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Book Author: Alex Findlay

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.

EVERY LAST FEAR by Alex Finlay: Book Review

One could hardly imagine a more typical family than the Pines of Nebraska.  Father, mother, three sons, a daughter.  So what catastrophe could have left only two of them alive?

The event that precipitated the tragedies began several years before the novel opens.  Danny, the oldest of the Pine children, was a high school football star at a party with his girlfriend Charlotte.  Then everyone, including Danny, started drinking and everything got out of control.  There was a fight, Charlotte fled, and she was found dead along the river the next day.  Danny was arrested, confessed to her murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

The book opens with Matt, the second oldest son, being summoned to his dorm room at NYU by his dorm’s resident assistant.  There, FBI Agent Sarah Keller gives him the heartbreaking news that his parents, sister, and younger brother have died in an apparent accident in Mexico.  Details are scarce, she informs him, but it appears to have been a faulty gas leak in a cottage they were renting in the resort town of Tulun.

Matt is stunned, needless to say, by the deaths of his parents and siblings.  His last contact from them was a text from his sister a few days earlier, but nothing since.  And now Agent Keller wants him to visit his brother in prison and give him the horrendous news personally.  Matt protests that he hasn’t seen Danny in years because that’s the way his brother wants it, but he finally relents and the two brothers meet for the first time since Danny’s imprisonment.

Agent Keller tells Matt that the Mexican authorities are making a fuss about releasing the bodies to anyone but a family member, and obviously that means Matt.   So he flies to Tulun, but nothing goes as it should.

Every Last Fear is written in several voices–Matt’s, Agent Keller’s, Matt’s father Evan’s, and his sister Maggie’s.  Evan Pine is the family member most obsessed by his son’s imprisonment.  He is convinced that Danny was coerced by the local police force into confessing, and the case became a national cause celebre when it was made into a documentary.  Danny’s defense was first mounted by an inexperienced local lawyer, then by other attorneys, finally reaching the Supreme Court, but his conviction was not overturned.

So when Evan gets a text with a photo that appears to be of Charlotte in a bar in Tulun, he feels it’s his final opportunity to find out the truth and free his son.  That led to the family’s fatal trip to Mexico and opened a Pandora’s Box of questions about the truth of Charlotte’s death.

Every Last Fear is a breathtaking thriller, with a plot that will keep you reading to the last page.  Power, privilege, mistakes–they’re all there and all believably realistic and skillfully drawn.

Alex Finlay is the pseudonym of the author, and at this time not even his/her gender has been revealed.  You can read more about him/her in an excellent discussion of the novel 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 Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.