The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
trade Paperback: 432 pages
The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day is a very highly recommended
compelling mystery/novel psychological suspense. I found it compulsively
readable and unputdownable.
Anna Winger is a handwriting analyst who sometimes works with the FBI
and law enforcement as well as for private citizens. Anna can look at
original samples of handwriting and deduce more about a person than they
may want to reveal. She has also been constantly on the move for the
last thirteen years in an attempt to hide from her former violent,
abusive boyfriend. This time she and Joshua, her thirteen-year-old son,
have ended up in a small town in Parks, Indiana. She avoids friendships
and any ties with the community she's living in so she can pack up Josh
and leave the moment something seems threatening.
Then her FBI contact refers her to
Parks Sheriff Russ Keller to assist in the investigation and search for
a missing toddler by looking at some written material left behind. The
sheriff is reluctant to trust her analysis and she is reluctant to get
involved in this small town case. Anna agrees to help, but it places her
in close contact with the community and the ghosts of her past. The
mother of the toddler is also missing and it seems like the father might
be abusive, all of which strikes too close to home for Anna. Did the
mother of the boy stage their disappearance to escape abuse?
To complicate matters even more, Josh is starting to rebel, by talking
back, hiding his activities, and acting out. Is it because he is a teen
or is his behavior linked to the friends he has made in Parks? When Josh
disappears too, Anna must disclose parts of her personal life to try
and find her son. Her biggest fear is that he went to look for a man he
never met, his father, and Anna will have to return to her hometown to
find him and confront her past.
Although Anna is very guarded with details into her past, we slowly
learn more about her as we also learn more about the case the sheriff is
trying to solve - and as she tries to find her son. While the buildup
is slow to start, the narrative picked up the pace rather dramatically
and then took off at a gallop. Anna is a great character, fully
developed and interesting. She has amazing powers of observation and
notices many small clues and details along the way.
The writing is excellent and kept my attention throughout, especially as
it opens with the titular "On the day I died..." The unraveling of the
clues in the intricate cases are interlaced with the slow reveal of
Anna's past and what she has been running from for all these years. It
all makes for a masterful novel of mystery and suspense along with a
powerful statement about abuse. There
is a twist that, upon reflection, seems too convenient, but I
overlooked it as the action was pretty intense at that point. Once you
get through the slow-ish set up, the action and information increase
exponentially to the satisfying conclusion.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this
book from HarperCollins.