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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 story begins.


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 kids…Karen…”
‘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.


Wow, I 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.