Dying to Know by TJ O’Connor

 

In many ways, it’s a typical crime scene – the sound of police radios, the crime scene techs taking photos, the body being tested for gunshot residue and evidence. Detective Oliver “Tuck” Tucker has seen it all countless times over the past 15 years on the job. But this time, there’s one major difference: the body in question is his.

Author TJ O’Connor’s first novel is a clever, well-written murder mystery with a decidedly different twist, since the murder victim returns in ghostly form to solve his own murder. This makes for a fascinating reading experience that has the added element of humor (as people see or hear him and doubt their sanity).

The story begins the night before Tuck’s death, when his loving wife Angel and his dog Hercule wake him up because they’ve heard a noise downstairs. Tuck grabs his gun, hands another one to Angel, and quickly gets dressed, though Angel urges him to move faster. “Look, if I’m going to get killed tonight, I don’t want to be naked,” he jokes. Little does he know!

Minutes later, as he’s coming to the conclusion that all is well downstairs, he discovers a light on in the den, and sees the contents of his briefcase scattered about. Before he can fully react, there are a couple of flashes and Tuck’s world goes dark.

His next memory is of the crime scene, which takes on new meaning since he is the victim of the crime. Hercule sees his spirit right away but a frustrated Tuck realizes there’s a lot to learn about being dead. Suddenly, he needs to adjust to not moving as he did before, and not being easily seen and heard by people. But he’s still a detective, in his mind, and vows to solve this case – his case. Soon, everyone is a suspect, including his longtime partner “Bear” Braddock. The murder investigation unfolds in many directions, including an archaeological site called “Kelly’s Dig” that his history professor wife becomes involved with, and where Civil War remains have been found. What’s disturbing for Tuck is that he’s being urged to make the connection to the dig by other spirits – those belonging to the Civil War era – who contact him because they want closure. How Tuck’s murder relates to all of this is intriguing and the ending will be a surprise.

O’Connor does a wonderful job of conveying the feeling of urgency about the case as well as the frustration of Tuck adjusting to his new “life” on the other side. The story is so good that readers may tend to momentarily forget that Tuck is a ghost, but that fact is half the fun, since he can see and hear things that others can’t. In a way, it makes him an even better detective than before.

O’Connor has a background as an international security consultant, which serves him well here. Dying to Know may be his first novel, but he has plans for others in this series and it will be enjoyable to see how Tuck continues to adjust to life as a ghostly detective.

Published simultaneously on http://www.bookpleasures.com.

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