Guilt Trip, The Mystery
By Donna Murray
Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Rating: 3 stars
“The bottom right drawer of the barn-office desk is
the only one locked, so that has to be where my brother hides his stash,” the
Lauren is checking on her brother Ron, worried he’s
drinking in secret. The first chapter ends sharing the crux of the mystery.
“I’ve just tossed the key back into the right boot
before Ron bursts through the door.
‘Lauren! Can you come back to the house?’ His skin
is drained of color. His eyes blink as if he can scarcely see. ‘The
‘What?’ I ask. ‘What’s wrong?’ I’ve taken a step toward
him, but no more. He and I never touch.
‘Toby. You know Toby…?’
‘Sure. Karen’s older brother.’
'He’s dead,’ Ron tells me. ‘Suicide.’”
The mystery has a very good premise. Lauren’s prior
police experience has her immediately question when Ron tells her that Toby
used a shotgun to shoot himself.
thought…Suicide by shotgun. I hope
somebody’s looking into that.”
The author tells a relatively slow-paced story that
includes detailed descriptions and asides into Lauren’s personal life. Some
readers may appreciate this deviation from standard modern mystery format to
this one that reflects back to an older style of the craft. However, what this
mystery lacks is more intrigue, with less telling. When the story tells readers
a clue or a twist in such a direct way, they do not need to figure it out for
themselves, which weakens an otherwise excellent story. The questions of the
mystery are present, but the telling of it lacks the needed tension.
A tighter edit, with formatting dialogue by
publishing standard allowing more white space for readability, would have
compensated somewhat for the use of long descriptions and point of view shifts.
Such an edit would have intensified this well-conceived mystery, making it a
much stronger story.