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Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimers’

SORROW ROAD by Julia Keller: Book Review

A lot of years have passed since the invasion of Normandy, but apparently not enough.  At least not enough for old sins to be buried so deeply that they’ll never be uncovered.

Bell Elkins, prosecuting attorney in rural Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, is meeting an acquaintance, a Georgetown Law School classmate, for a drink.  Darlene Strayer and Bell weren’t close, but they both grew up in neighboring small towns in West Virginia and have successful careers, and that makes each one sort of an anomaly in that area of the country.  But while Bell left behind a lucrative career in the nation’s capital to return home, Darlene stayed, became a federal prosecutor and is now a successful litigator in a private firm.  So what could be the reason that she asks Bell to meet her at the Tie Yard Tavern, requesting her help?

Darlene tells Bell that her father, Harmon Strayer, died in a nursing home the previous week at the age of ninety.  Darlene had placed him there three years earlier when his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s made it impossible for him to live alone or to move to Washington to live with her.  He had been doing reasonably well until the past few months, but during each successive visit Darlene noticed his agitation growing.

She tells Bell that although she knew there was something wrong at Thornapple Terrace, it was easier to do nothing, to attribute her father’s emotional disturbances as increasingly visible signs of the progression of his dementia.  But now that he’s dead, Darlene feels she should have forced the home to do something, to pay attention to the way her father was behaving.  She thinks that his death, even considering his advanced age and mental condition, wasn’t natural or caused by negligence–she thinks he was murdered.

When Darlene leaves the tavern to drive home to D.C., after getting a reluctant promise from Bell to look into the situation unofficially, a brutal winter storm is in full force.  Just a few hours later, in the middle of the night, a deputy sheriff knocks on Bell’s door.  A trucker has found Darlene’s wrecked Audi and her body on the curve of a road nicknamed Help me Jesus for the many wrecks that have taken place there.

Bell’s name was found on a note in Darlene’s coat pocket, the deputy sheriff said; the car smelled of alcohol and Darlene had vomited before the crash.  That doesn’t make sense, Bell thinks, because during the whole time the two women had been talking in the tavern, Darlene had never taken even one sip from the drink in front of her.

Sorrow Road then flashes back to 1938.  Harmon Strayer, Vic Plumley, and Alvie Sherrill were inseparable, and three years later they went off to war together, taking part in the Normandy invasion.  The friends had never been out of West Virginia before that, and even though each was secretly frightened, together the threesome acquitted themselves well and returned to the admiration of the townspeople of Norbitt, West Virginia.  But something had happened to them during the war that changed them, not in a good way, forever after.  Now the past apparently has caught up with Harmon Strayer.

I am a fervent admirer of Julia Keller’s series.  Her writing is outstanding, her characters shaded and believable, and her plots take the reader along for an exciting ride.  This is the fifth book in the Bell Elkins series; I strongly suggest you read the other four as well.

You can read more about Julia Keller at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.




DOUBLE VISION by Colby Marshall: Book Review

Dr. Jenna Ramey is a forensic psychiatrist with the FBI.  She brings years of experience to her job, but she also brings something that no other agent/profiler can match–she has synesthesia, a neurological condition causing her to visualize various colors that she has learned correspond to what people are saying or how they are behaving.

A shooting is taking place in a grocery store filled with senior citizens.  But the caller to the 911 emergency line is a six-year-old girl who came to the store with her grandmother.  Young Molly Keegan is almost unbelievably calm when talking to the emergency dispatcher Yancy Vogul, but everything she tells him can be verified.  She has counted the seven shots and, sure enough, there are seven victims dead when the police and FBI agents arrive on the scene.

Yancy, Jenna’s significant other, is still recovering from the accident that left him with a prosthetic leg.  Unable to work as a field agent for the Bureau, he now is behind the desk of the local police station, grateful that he still has some connection to law enforcement but despondent about not having the career he wanted.  So, although he knows better, he’s become emotionally invested in CiCi Winthrop, a woman who has called 911 several times about her abusive husband but has refused to press charges.  So now Yancy is just going a little out of his way, he tells himself, “just to check.”  What harm could it do?

After a second interview with Molly, Jenna and her colleagues become fearful that the man they are looking for is the serial murderer they are calling the Triple Shooter.  As Jenna tells the other agents, “This isn’t a random shooter.  We’ve seen him before.”  There are differences between this shooting and the previous ones, but Jenna still believes the UNSUB (unknown subject) has committed the previous murders.  He has killed women only before, and this mass shooting included both sexes.  But there’s something about all the crimes that connect them in Jenna’s mind, although she’s not sure what that is.

There are significant pieces in Jenna’s backstory.  Her mother, Claudia, is a serial killer who has escaped from a mental hospital, and no one knows her whereabouts now.  And Jenna’s daughter’s father, Hank, was murdered a year ago, and some members are contesting the will in which he named Ayana in both his insurance policies; Hank’s mother, in particular, is demanding proof that Ayana is actually her granddaughter.

Is Jenna’s condition a neurological aberration or a gift, an additional hidden sense?  Sometimes it seems to Jenna that it’s both, helping her when she’s working a crime scene or interviewing witnesses, interfering with her work when the colors she visualizes don’t seem to make sense.  But overall she confident that synesthesia works well for her, a “sixth sense” that can help her tell truth from fiction.

Color Blind is the second novel in the series featuring Dr. Jenna Ramey.  I’m looking forward to the third one.

You can read more about Colby Marshall at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.