Saturday, March 18, 2023

Something Bad Wrong

Something Bad Wrong by Eryk Pruitt
5/1/23; 446 pages
Thomas & Mercer
Jess Keller #1

Something Bad Wrong by Eryk Pruitt is a highly recommended investigative thriller/police procedural.

Jess Keeler, a podcaster, is determined to solve the 1972 murder of Linda Harris and Steven Hicks. The couple from Lake Castor, Virginia, disappeared on Christmas Eve in 1971. Their bodies were found a couple weeks later just over the border in North Carolina. Jess's grandfather, Big Jim Ballard was a detective in Deeton County, North Carolina and was put in charge of the investigation by Sheriff Red Carter. Jim, however, was keeping the fact he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a secret. 

Jess recruits disgraced news caster Dan Decker to help her with the investigation in hopes of solving the crime in a true crime podcast. Jess has found an old notebook from her grandfather and is using the notes he made to assist them in the direction their research should take. As they begin looking into the case and background information, it becomes clear that the notes may not have all the answers and that there were several problems and conflicts in the original investigation.

The narrative unfolds through two timelines, Jess and Dan in the present day and all those involved in the official investigation in 1972. There are also several different points-of-view from a variety of characters. The complexities of the original case are presented along with the conflicts between characters and psychological motives. The first investigation was plagued by dueling egos, corruption, and secrets.

The depiction of Big Jim and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease is well executed and heartbreaking, however all of the characters are not quite fully realized. There is some devolving into using caricatures of a type of person, Sheriff Red Carter, for example, but generally the male characters are better written than Jess. Jess isn't as compelling of a characters and seems to be much younger than her age, almost 40.

Both timelines are interesting as they both lead to the eventual answers, although the present day investigation is slower-paced. The dual timelines work well in the novel, while the ending felt rushed.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley.

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