Crossed by Meredith Doench is a book that my fellow reviewer, Erin, has been fangirling about. I was therefore really keen to read it because we have similar tastes with a lot of books. It did not disappoint! This may have been Doench’s first book, but it is written so confidently with a multilayered story, that it is difficult to believe her a novice.
Special Agent Luce Hansen is a member of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and has been trained as a specialist in serial murders and profiling. She has had little opportunity to practice her speciality because serial murders are so rare in Ohio, and has thus had to practice on serial sex crimes and robberies. Luce needs a big break to allow her a chance to get into the FBI, her ultimate goal.
The story starts when Luce gets sent to investigate a serial murder in her old hometown and this raises the spectre of her past and an unsolved murder that weighs heavy emotionally. She is allocated Detective Cole Ainsley as a partner, a friend of her policeman father, who is homophobic and has strong views about who the killer is.
What makes the story interesting is weaving of the different layers. The current set of murders with the addition the earlier murder that involved Luce seem layered together. In both times we are dealing with ex-gay ministries, which as a non-US reviewer I had to research. In summary, it was believed in some parts of the US that homosexual behaviour was a psychological condition that could be cured, and this belief continued until recently. Organisations (ex-gay ministries) were formed to deal with this, and one such organisation exists in the town in the story.
We find that Luce is suffering from mental trauma, maybe PTSD, relating to the unsolved murder of her first girlfriend nineteen years ago. This caused her to leave the town and has been affecting her life ever since. During the story she has to face most of the issues she has run away from. Under emotional pressure, she has a safe place that her mind takes her to, which is a watery grave. This means that she is inclined to remove herself from proceedings and must ground herself by thinking of, or talking to, her father to return herself to the world.
Luce’s relationship with her life partner, Rowan, has had some difficult times caused by her inability to deal with these events. Rowan is an artist and is not comfortable with the danger Luce’s job puts her in. She has been understanding in the past but is not sure that she can deal with the mental trauma of this current case and how it may affect Luce.
Detective Cole Ainsley is well characterised. He is the white-haired detective, brought out of retirement because he is convinced of the link between the old case and the latest murders. He has anger management issues, is a homophobe and as the case continues, has very strong views which Luce struggles to deal with.
In addition, there are numerous excellently described characters which include an embalmer who has vampire tendencies, a goth witness and an ex-gay Pastor who is chilling in his belief and righteousness.
The Writing Style
This book is written from a first-person point of view. It is a personal narrative, and it works really well in this case because Luce has so many emotional and mental issues. We are given the backstory, but only as it comes into Luce’s mind. It is released to us in chunks so we are like Luce, never aware of the full picture.
It is so well crafted. The investigative angle, the personal relationships with Ainsley and Rowan and the state of Luce’s mind give you, the reader, a full-on experience.
The personal narrative style is well suited to this story. I loved the way Doench weaves together the layers.
The small town and the nearby quarry are stars of the story. Doenchs description is beautifully done, and I believe you will know them as well as Luce Hansen does by the end of the story.
I didn’t have an issue with it, but some readers may find triggers in the description of the murder victims and what was done to them which includes mutilation.
It is only a small point, but I found the final chapters to be very neat and tidy. They seemed out of place in this complex, layered story. It was too sudden to have everything complete, everyone happy and everything solved. I would have preferred to have had a number of chapters that detailed how this happened.
A very well written serial murder investigation that is made different by the emotional state of Luce Hansen, and her personal story. The layered approach works really well and ensures the reader is often off-balance, just what you need in a murder mystery. Go buy it!
Excerpt from Crossed by Meredith Doench
He’d already filled the entrance of the cave before she realized anyone was there. The bright sun obscured his face and the girl’s eyes moved down the length of his dark shadow and stopped at his midsection—hips that narrowed so thin. Recognition flashed in her eyes, and with a deep breath, relief washed through her.
“Lose your way?” the girl asked. When he didn’t answer, she added, “It’s easy to get turned around inside these caves.” Her voice carried along the belly of the cavern and rolled out to the shadow.
When he didn’t respond, she spoke again. This time her voice was a bit too loud and her words came out like a helpless bleat toward the stranger. “Most people don’t come around here.”
His shadow crept farther and farther over her. She saw the outline of something large and heavy clenched inside his right hand. There was nowhere for her to go but to retreat deeper inside the cave. The girl hurled at him the only thing she could, the journal, and scrambled away on her hands and knees.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781626393615
- Publisher: Bold Stroke Books Inc.
Meredith Doench Online
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Note: I received a free review copy of Crossed by Meredith Doench. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.