Well as mentioned before, I occasionally take breaks from my non-fiction reading list. Breaks from being made to think about anything, and just a few hours to escape into some easy reading. This Sunday afternoon was the perfect opportunity to do just that. A trip to a garage sale a few weeks back netted me a stack of easy reading books for $0.25 each. So, at the top of the stack was Dark Truth by Mariah Stewart.
Our heroine is Nina Madden, whose life was completed jacked up when her father was convicted of being the “Stone River Rapist” (and killer, I think he should be called the “Stone River Killer”..it packs a bit more punch I think). To escape the stank eye from the townsfolk she leaves her step-mother (her mother died when she was young) and moves away. Nina spends many years ignoring her jailed father, trying to forget that part of her life. Dad ends up getting an appeal but dies in a car wreck on the way to the courthouse. Fast forward a few years and the step-mom has now died. So 20 years after she left Stone River, Nina finds herself returning for her step-mother’s funeral. I’m not sure why she returned for it, she didn’t even like the woman. I have a hard enough time going to the funerals of people I like. She is presented with new evidence in the form of letters left by her father addressed to her and her step-mom. Letters stating his innocence. “You see, baby girl..I did sex those women up..I had a problem. But I did not kill them” <– paraphrase. He was a college professor at the time of his arrest and had been having affairs with many of his students. It was those same students who were targeted by the killer. So now we wonder..did he or didn’t he kill them? He had sex with all of them the same night they died. The original trial appears to have been a witch-hunt, grabbing onto the most logical suspect and nailing him to the stake. Until…(enter foreboding music) another college student turns up dead. Left in the exact position as the victims in the original killings. Details that were not released to the press. Leading the investigation is a hottie cop (of course) by the name of Wes Powell. Why are all the lead investigators and the heroines attractive? I want a book with some ugly people with hairy moles. Where they aren’t led to get it on by the adrenaline of a good murderer on the loose. Spoiler – it doesn’t say they actually “get it on” but it is implied it will happen in the near future. I won’t tell you anymore from here though..go read the book.
This is the first book of hers that I have read, so I was a bit skeptical going in. While I’m sure extensively researched (as all good writers do), it seemed to lack a certain polishing. A few chapters seemed predictable, characters falling into place a bit too easily. If this had been a movie we would have heard the foreboding background score too many times when a character’s name was mentioned, or they came onto the scene. However, in light of that it was still the easy read I was aiming for. I read it through to the end because my curiousity was piqued. Though for a 324 page book to have the principle mystery explained on exactly 3 pages (293-295) wraps it up a bit too cleanly for my tastes. I guess, for all of the foreplay I wanted more meat at the end. It felt like Mrs. Stewart spent considerable time developing characters and chasing leads only to leave me saying “that’s it?” at the end. Though I do give her a shout-out for leaving an opening about one of the character’s family ties. In the end, I have no regrets. For 3 hours Mrs. Stewart wove me a tale of deception, sex, unforgiveness and redemption. I met some interesting characters; rooted for a few and didn’t like several. I’m enough on the fence regarding the author to pick up another of her novels and give it a shot. Good thing there was another at the garage sale… 🙂 Maybe next Sunday afternoon.