Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Flash of Murder, by Jeff Boarts

Nothing could be more idyllic than small town life in the mid 1950s.  The town of Kittanning is preparing for the boon of the tourist season, particularly this year, when it is the bicentennial celebration of the French and Indian battle that put the town on the map.  Life in town is routine, quiet, peaceful- or should I say, it was, until a serial killer with an unusual calling card begins terrorizing the town.  As local reporter George Cooper assists the police in their attempts to catch the fiend, people all over town are wondering how well they actually know their neighbors.

This is the first time I have had the supreme honor to review for an author that I know in my personal life.  Add to that the fact that this book is set in the town in which I live, and let me tell you, the anticipation of this book had me more antsy than a child on Christmas morning.  And that anticipation?  So totally worth it.  I cannot fully express how impressed I am with this book.

While I am not, by any means, an aficionado of mystery novels, I think even a novice to the genre can see the skillful manner in which the author created the plot and action of the story.  Within minutes of the opening, the action begins, and builds throughout the story.  I felt myself increasingly pulled into the plot, yet never at anytime did I feel the action or any of the specific scenes overwhelm the story as a whole.  

I loved the setting of the story, although I am a bit partial.  Despite the fact that this was my town, it was still a new setting due to the era.  There is a definite feeling of noir to the story, but it is very subtle; you never see any of the stilted and often cheesy dialogue found in some noir stories, particularly those with the pulp or hard boiled slant.  No, this is more of a noir light, enough to set the scene and the tone, but not hit you over the head.  I thought it was just perfect.  The small town feeling was just general enough that it could be relatable to anyone living in a small town, while still focusing on the specifics of a very real location with real history.

Of all the writing aspects, I was probably most impressed with the character development.  Many times, when I read mysteries, there is so much focus on the action that I never connect to the characters.  This book shows that you can have well developed characters, with whom a reader connects, without shortchanging the action.  I really came to care about George, and his suffering throughout the book.  And I found myself empathizing with many of the characters, both major and minor.  I felt like I was a part of the town, dealing with the situation right alongside them.

In terms of the "whodunit" aspect of the book, I started out thinking I knew the culprit.  By the end, I was not sure who to trust.  The story takes plenty of twists and turns, and of course a couple of red herrings.  I felt like it followed a logical path, one that any crime investigation would follow, and in the end, it all made sense.  However, I thought some of the "clues" along the way were presented in brilliant, subtle ways.  It makes me want to immediately re-read the book to catch them all.

In short, I have nothing but glowing praise for the book.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

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