In Swift’s (Living With Capone, 2009, etc.) latest crime novel, a murder leads a small town sheriff to consider the true meaning of home.
The town of Echo Lake is in bad shape. Locals are cheerful and self-deprecating, often repeating the old adage, “When God cursed the ground that Adam stood on, some say he had Echo Lake in mind.” The town is in full decline: Businesses are closing, young people are moving away and the old are left holding on to whatever’s left. In this failing, fading town, Sheriff Edward “Skip” Gogebic sets out to uncover who’s behind the brutal murder of the new, unpopular pastor of the local Living Life Church, Henrietta Hearthbottom. But the corpse may not even be Henrietta; the body has been beaten past recognition with the Book of Laws, a church guidebook Henrietta was known to carry everywhere. As the mystery mounts, Gogebic—with little to no help from cash-strapped state investigators in addition to an electoral challenge for his job as sheriff—must answer a disturbing set of questions not only about the murder but about the town he calls home. Swift’s story has a distinctive voice that may be refreshing to regular readers of crime novels. Despite this unique approach, the novel struggles to maintain a steady appeal. Players often react in ways inconsistent with their characterizations. When the body is discovered and assumed to be Henrietta’s, her finders seem more relieved she is dead than horrified at finding a corpse. Moments like these crop up frequently throughout the story, limiting the effects of the refreshingly original atmosphere Swift otherwise develops. Ultimately, the novel fails to reach its full potential, struggling to build a consistent level of intrigue and suspense that grips readers.
A unique mystery that lacks pull.