Ah, summer...that magical time of year when a (not-so-young) woman's fancy turns to MURDER. Well, at least this not-so-young woman. Summer is the time when I catch up on all of those popcorn books I've been wanting to read-the ones that don't make me think so much but satisfy my need for pure reading escape. This time, it was the book Immoral, by Brian Freeman.
At first glance, this book is just another formulaic mystery/thriller. A young girl goes missing. A hard-working but seriously flawed detective tries to figure out what happened to her. John Stride is haunted by the disappearance of another girl the year before-a girl who was never found. But that girl, Kerry McGrath, was a good girl with no secrets. The victim of the most recent disappearance, Rachel Deese, was a wild child with a sordid sexual history and a sociopathic personality. Nevertheless, the media is calling for an arrest, and despite not having a body, they have a perfect suspect in the creepy step-father. Sounds fairly unoriginal as a plot goes, no? But when the trial part of the book ended about two-thirds of the way through the book, I realized that in fact, something else entirely was going on.
Freeman does a good job of creating characters, and he draws you into not just the mystery itself but the lives of all of those involved. I happen to be watching The Killing on Netflix right now, and I see similarities to the way the book and the show are structured. Immoral is not just the procedural you might expect, but looks closely at how the case, and the missing girl, affect the police investigators, the parents, and the community. The only thing that gave me a little bit of pause was the fact that Rachel was seen as a sexually precocious teen who may have "asked" for what happened to her. But I think that Freeman gives enough background about her life and her evolution as a cruel, damaged person to counteract my gut-reaction feminism. It was believable to me that she could, in fact, have been the instigator of her relationship with her step-father. And since Freeman takes what you think you know and turns it on it's head in the last third of the book, that particular aspect ended up not being relevant anyway. Good summer read for the mystery lover!