29 March 2010

"The Fate of Katherine Carr" by Thomas H. Cook

The Fate of Katherine Carr The Fate of Katherine Carr by Thomas H. Cook

Genre: mystery
On my TBR list?: No

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Everyone has a certain storyline that is difficult for them to read. For me, it is stories about the death of young children. Once I became a mother, I could no longer accept such a thing as just part of the plot. So here is fair warning: if you have trouble with that sort of story, too, then you may want to turn away from this book.

This story follows George Gates, a former travel writer. His particular specialty was writing about places where people had mysteriously disappeared -- that is, until his own son vanishes and is later found to be murdered. George then gets a job at a small town paper and sticks to writing about local art exhibits and obituaries of local celebrities. One day he is drawn out of his numb existence by a retired police detective who is haunted by one particular unsolved missing persons case involving a woman named Katherine Carr.

Technically this book is a mystery, but if you are accustomed to reading "Murder She Wrote"-style cozies then you may not like this. Thomas H. Cook used a "story within a story within a story" device that isn't as confusing as it sounds, but it made the story drag for me. I can't picture how he could have told this story without having us read the other story, though.

It took a long time for this book to grab me, but I can't fault the writing. Cook's descriptions of George's anguish over the loss of his son were so vivid that I felt a tightening in my chest as I was reading. I pushed through, hoping that I would be rewarded with a satisfactory ending, but what I got reminded me of the endings of old-time radio shows like "The Shadow". I normally enjoy a good melodrama, but it didn't quite fit with the melancholy tone of the majority of the book.

What's the ultimate verdict? The story is beautifully written and the main character's sense of hopelessness really came through. However, nothing is spelled out as clearly as it would have been in a conventional mystery novel so I didn't come away with the feeling that the bad guys got their comeuppance. For that reason, I can't think of anyone to whom I would recommend this book.

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