In a rustic New Hampshire town, a young mother and a disabled Iraq War veteran spark an affair that leads to an unconventional whodunit.
As her 30th birthday—and the heated Obama–McCain election—approaches, Dakota “Koty” Fowler despairs over her 12-year marriage to Wayne, “an alcoholic...from the worst family [Granite Creek] has ever seen.” It wasn’t always this way: They loved each other very much until Wayne’s brother, Carl, was murdered, transforming Wayne into a withdrawn and abusive husband. Their three daughters, Rosie, Iris and Daisy, provide some relief from Koty’s stifling day-to-day routine, but it isn’t until Wayne recruits Koty to serve as a “charity babysitter” for Jamie Briggs, a 26-year-old who lost both arms and both legs to an IED in Fallujah, that Koty finds happiness. Over the course of a few weeks of “afternoon delight,” Jamie challenges Koty to stand up to Wayne, while Koty inspires Jamie to stand and eventually function in society again. Within three months, everyone’s lives are upended by a startling series of events. Told in two parts, through the voices of seven characters in search of closure, Bradley (Forgotten April, 2011) takes the reader for a swift ride on the billows of memory, flashing back and forth in time. “We don’t have the power to empty our heads of bad memories,” says one narrator. “Only the memories themselves can decide when enough is enough.” When Koty narrates, alternating between a grown-up voice and her younger, more hopeful one, the book is most memorable, full of witty asides and insights into the ironies of American culture, especially its collective obsession with “guns and gays.” As the mystery unfolds and multiple narrators (some more convincing than others) take over, the book threatens to become overwhelmed by exposition, a case of suspicious amnesia, a bungling detective, a convenient serial killer, clever red herrings, false admissions of guilt and a few questionable twists of fate. Satisfyingly, however, Bradley leaves no loose ends untied. Better yet, just when the reader thinks all has been solved, she throws a last-minute confession into the mix like a grenade.
Built as solidly as the “legendary stone culverts” that tunnel through the landscape of Granite Creek; an engaging twist on the suburban-housewife mystery.