Set in 1950s Detroit on fictional Alder Avenue, it tells a story of racial unrest and a failing economy. Edgar Award-winning novelist Lori Roy’s second book is masterful at weaving together seemingly unrelated events and keeping the reader guessing till the very end.
First, a local African-American woman is murdered. Did one of the local residents have a hand in it…and why? Shortly thereafter, childlike twentysomething Elizabeth Symanski disappears, sending the neighborhood into a whirlwind of non-stop searches and accusations. There’s also a missing cat. Are the events related? Scandals are revealed and numerous suspects are under consideration.
Author Roy has a masterful knack for description, bringing to life this formerly peaceful neighborhood. Her effortless attention to detail allows the reader to “see” the homes and people of Alder Avenue. Keep your wits about you, because it may be a small neighborhood but the cast of characters is huge and unless you’re paying attention you could lose track of just who’s who.
This is a breathtaking thriller without resorting to undue violence. It’s the quiet revelation of menacing events that makes it all the more powerful. It’s to Roy’s credit that her use of language is all that’s necessary to have the reader pleading with certain characters to be careful, and wondering if others are guilty of the unthinkable. One slightly disturbing element is a tendency to switch tense. Most of the novel is written in present tense, yet suddenly a sentence or paragraph is written in the past. It’s all very grammatically correct, make no mistake. But it’s slightly jarring nonetheless. This might be due to the fact that an urgency to dig deeper into the story makes it momentarily confusing when tense is shifted.
The residents of Alder Avenue at first feel that all will be well in their neighborhood once Elizabeth is found. But as time goes on, much to the delight of the reader, digging beneath the surface of the neighborhood and its inhabitants makes it apparent things may never be the same again.
Published simultaneously as a review on www.bookpleasures.com.