Review: The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea

Title: The Suicide House {Rory Moore/Lane Phillips #2}

Author: Charlie Donlea

Published: July 28th 2020, Kensington

Status: Read July 2020, courtesy Kensington/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Suicide House is the second book from Charlie Donlea to feature forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore, and her partner, psychologist Lane Phillips. It follows The Woman in Darkness (also published as Some Choose Darkness), though it can be read as a stand alone.

“Welcome . . . to The Suicide House.”

It’s been a year since two students were murdered on the grounds of an exclusive prep school in Indiana, and though a chemistry teacher was convicted for the crime, his attempted suicide means there are questions that have never been answered.

The mystery surrounding the gruesome slayings, and a subsequent string of related suicides, attracts the professional attention of an investigative reporter/blogger, Ryder Hillier, a podcast host, Mack Carter, and eventually Lane and Rory.

The story unfolds from multiple perspectives over two timelines, and includes journal entries, transcripts and flashbacks. Surprisingly, Lane and Rory’s entry into the story comes quite late so at first I was a little puzzled by their absence. Rory in particular is such a unique and interesting character I was worried she would be sidelined in this mystery, and though that concern eventually proved unfounded, the resolution is very much as a result of a team effort.

The plot is complex though all threads lead to the reveal of what really happened on the night when the students were killed at the abandoned boarding house. Much of the foundation of the story is provided by Ryder and Mack, though the scene of the murder is introduced by an investigating detective. The two murdered teens were part of a larger group of pupils taking part in a traditional initiation challenge, tied to the supernatural legend of ‘The Man in the Mirror’, to be admitted to a campus ‘secret’ society. The police determined that the chemistry teacher, who had been a target of the society’s pranks, killed the boys in a fit of rage but there are inconsistencies that seem to preclude such a neat resolution, hence the involvement of Rory, who is often capable of seeing what other investigators do not. Donlea skilfully develops several red herrings and alternate suspects that draw attention away from the killer so that their identity is obscured until the characters themselves begin to make the connections.

An engrossing mystery with an atmospheric setting and interesting characters I enjoyed The Suicide House.

++++++

Available from Kensington

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Also by Charlie Donlea reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

Review: The Woman In Darkness by Charlie Donlea

 

Title: The Woman in Darkness {Rory Moore/Lane Phillips #1}

Author: Charlie Donlea

Published: April 2nd 2019, Bantam

Status: Read April 2019- Courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

In 1979, a serial killer was arrested, but jailed for only a single murder – that of Angela Mitchell whose body was never found. Now, after forty years of incarceration, ‘The Thief’ is finally being recommended for parole.

In 2019, Rory Moore, a talented and dogged forensic crime reconstructionist, is forced to put her law degree to use when her father passes away, and she is required to represent his long time client at his parole hearing.

Rory is baffled by the forty year clandestine relationship between the alleged serial killer and her late father, and with the obsessiveness she is known for, begins to dig into the past, uncovering a stunning secret.

The novel unfolds over two timelines which largely follows Rory in the present, and Angela Mitchell in the past, offering the occasional brief chapter from other characters who are significant to the story including The Thief, Rory’s father, and her Aunt Greta.

Rory is an interesting character, it is her obsessive nature that contributes to her skill as a cold case reconstructionist, she immerses herself in the minutiae of a case, searching for patterns and overlooked details. Though she maintains an intimate relationship with her boyfriend Lane, and her Aunt Greta, she is essentially a loner, who avoids social interaction and has regular episodes of anxiety.

Rory is intrigued by the similarities between herself and Angela Mitchell. Angela too was a victim of anxiety and exhibited obsessive-compulsive behaviour. In 1979 the murders of five young women caught Angela’s attention and she secretly spent hours every day studying the details of the crimes, eventually finding a pattern that led to the identity of the killer. Fearful her psychiatric history would prevent the law from taking her seriously, she anonymously shared her theories with the police, and then disappeared. The police assumed she too had become a victim of ‘The Thief’, but Rory soon comes to believe otherwise.

It’s not so much the mystery that surrounds the identity of ‘The Thief’, or even Angela’s fate that is central to The Woman in Darkness, though the answers to both are compelling. Donlea’s focus is on the repercussions of the secrets revealed, especially for Rory. I enjoyed the twists of the plot and its dramatic revelations, and I thought the pacing was well measured.

I did think it was a shame that the case the Detective had brought to Rory at the beginning of the novel went no where, I would have liked to have seen how Rory worked a standard case as a forensic reconstructionist. Perhaps it’s something Donlea is planning to explore in a later book, Rory Moore has potential as a central character in a series, otherwise it was a needless distraction.

The Woman in Darkness is an engaging thriller with an appealing protagonist, this is Charlie Donlea’s third novel, though the first I have read.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

 

Available to Purchase via

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Published  in the US as Some Choose Darkness