Don Esker has returned home from San Francisco to the small Ohio town where he grew up, as his father has terminal cancer. The town is not Don’s favorite place at all as forty years earlier, in 1975, three boys were murdered and his father was a suspect in the crimes. Although his father was cleared, the town turned on Don, his three brothers, and his parents, and their lives were never, ever the same.
Don’s father wants to die with a clear name and Don takes it upon himself to find the killer in a decades old case that was mismanaged from the start and has gone cold. Through old memories and long forgotten faces, Don unravels the past with the help of a new love interest, Bruce. But some tales may be better off left unspoken.
Bud Gundy is a new author to me and this book happened upon my radar. It’s a mystery at the heart as Don reaches back to solve a 40-year-old case. The crimes hit his small town hard and his family was shattered in a number of ways when his father was taken in as a suspect. While his father was cleared quickly, long lasting damage was done as the town turned on them all. Adding in that Don was gay, his life became unbearable.
The book cleverly alternates between present day and the mid-70s and 80s as Don’s life before and after the tragedies unfolds. Gundy weaves a tight narrative of Don’s life as the youngest of four boys and we learn of the crimes in a matter of fact way, as there is no on page violence, and we learn where it took Don and his brothers after their father was wrongly accused.
There is a cast of characters as expected for a mystery and they all play a part in the story of Don’s life. Don also meets Bruce when he returns home and the author sets up an outline of a romance. The relationship between Don and Bruce is not the focus of the story and the majority of their romantic interactions are off page. We see them together as Bruce tries to help Don find the killer. The attempt at a romance didn’t completely fit into the rest of the book so well for me. As it was presented, it would have worked better for me if a romantic relationship wasn’t seemingly forced upon them. If there was to be a romance, I then would have preferred to see it evolve more than it did. The author also writes a somewhat fantastical progression for young Don as he not only went to Harvard on a full scholarship, but started in on the ground floor of Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, complete with stock options.
The mystery kept me intrigued as Don sifts through evidence and memories, yet the ending wasn’t a shock for me at all. The story is one that is smooth and steady and it’s a quiet mystery, but I would have liked to have seen an unexpected punch somewhere. As it stood, I enjoyed this story on the larger scale of being immersed in the past as well as the present by an author I hadn’t read before and I would certainly consider reading something else by Gundy in the future.