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THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE by Lou Berney: Book Review

The Long and Faraway Gone is definitely one of the top five mysteries I’ve read this year.  But to call this outstanding book a mystery is to limit it unfairly to that genre; although it follows two crimes and the resulting consequences for more than two decades, it is more a story of how violence and unanswered questions can define the lives of those left behind.

In August 1986 six teenage employees were shot to death in an Oklahoma City movie house after closing hours.  A seventh employee was found on the floor with the others, but he was not shot.  The police investigated for weeks but found no trace of the killers.  Now calling himself Wyatt Rivers, the man who was then the teenage Mike Oliver has spent twenty-six years wondering why he survived when the others didn’t.

Wyatt is now a private investigator in Las Vegas, and one of his clients asks him to go to Oklahoma City to check on a relative of his wife’s.  Candace Kilkenny, a young single mother, has recently moved to Oklahoma City to manage a live-music club left to her by a friend.  Candace doesn’t know anything about running a club, never had been to O.C. before, but she and her five-year-old daughter left Vegas and moved there.  Now she tells her cousin that someone is harassing her, and she needs help in figuring out what to do about it.

Wyatt doesn’t want to take the case, doesn’t want to go to O.C., but he also doesn’t want to share his reasons.  So, after a twenty-something year absence, he returns to the city of his youth and his nightmares.

In September 1986 there was another crime in that city, but this one was barely investigated.  Two sisters were spending the evening at the Oklahoma State Fair when the older one, Genevieve, left her twelve-year-old sister Juliana alone, sitting on a sidewalk on the fairgrounds.  Telling her younger sibling that she was going to check out a party she’d heard about and would be back in fifteen minutes, she walked away.  And in the first of many twists in this excellent thriller, it’s Genevieve who disappears and is never heard from again.

The police were convinced that Genevieve was a runaway, so little time was given to the case.  Juliana has spent the past two decades following every possible lead in an effort to locate her only sibling.  Her parents are dead, and she has made finding Genevieve, or at least finding out what happened to her, her life’s mission.  Her obsession, some would call it.  But for Juliana there is no choice; she must know what happened.

Lou Berney has written an extraordinary novel.  What happens when someone cannot let go of the past and go on with his/her life?  It’s understandable when those events are as traumatic as being the sole survivor of a massacre or having a loved one leave without a final word, not to return.  Yet shouldn’t life continue for the survivors of such tragedies, even if those lives can never be the same?

The Long and Faraway Gone is a book that will keep you engrossed until the end, pondering the above question well past the time you put the book down.

You can read more about Lou Berney at this web site.

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