Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: My Sister's Grave

I love snow days, especially those that occur when I am not inundated with essays and assessments to grade. When it began to snow on Monday, it was pretty wonderful, especially when it began to stick to the roads and accumulate.

I decided to spend the snow day reading, something that most teachers do not really have a ton of time for during the school year. Ever since I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I have not been able to get enough of psychological thrillers. I read all three of Flynn's novels within a week and then essentially devoured all of Chevy Stevens' novels, which are written very similarly. After reading those seven novels, I was somewhat stuck and managed to get my "fix" with individual novels at sporadic times, some of which have been more memorable that others. Robert Dugoni may have provided me with a twisty outlet though.

image taken from Amazon.com

For the past few months, My Sister's Grave has been appearing on my Amazon account as a novel that is recommended for me. Since I have been so busy with school and adjusting to homeownership, I did not buy the book until this morning and after reading it, I regret not having done so earlier. While more of a mystery than a dark thriller like Flynn and Stevens are known for, it kept me rapt for all 416 pages.

The main character, Tracy Crosswhite, is a strong, likable female lead. A former high school teacher turned homicide detective, Tracy is haunted by the murder of her younger sister twenty years ago. While a local man who was recently paroled for rape was tried and found guilty of her sister's murder, no body was ever found and Tracy believed that the facts of the case did not add up and that the man had been wrongfully convicted. Tracy becomes obsessed with finding the real killer and gaining justice for her sister. 

As the novel opens, Tracy's sister's body is found in a shallow grave. This sets off a chain of events that propel the novel quickly through until it reaches its heart-racing and thrilling conclusion. The first half of the novel is filled with flashbacks that add character development, authenticity, and important background information. The second half is rife with gripping, sharp-witted, and realistic (at least according to what I have seen on Law and Order: SVU) legal proceedings.

What I liked most about this book was the solid and detailed character development for the main character of Tracy. Through the flashbacks, the reader is not only better able to picture the relationship between Tracy and her sister, but also feel Tracy's pain in losing her sister and the guilt she had for leaving her behind on that fateful night. What sets Dugoni apart in this genre is that he takes the time to actually develop his main characters rather than just throwing out information and expecting us as the reader to care about them. 

It also helps that the author's portrayal of the sociopathic villain at the heart of the novel is incredibly creepy. Yes, the bad guy is stereotypically evil, but when it comes to novels such as these, you kind of expect that. While I would love for an author to come up with a non-stereotypical bad guy, I think readers are willing to just take what we can get when it comes to good writing and an entertaining novel. What I did not expect was who the killer ended up being. I was completely convinced I knew who the killer of Tracy's sister was throughout the novel and ended up being super surprised when I reached the ending. That right there is an accomplishment.

I give the book a solid 8.5 out of 10 and am looking forward to possible reading more of Dugoni's novels.

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