Book Review: Big Woods by May Cobb

Big Woods
May Cobb
Midnight Ink, July 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5781-0
Trade Paperback

It’s 1989 in Longview, Texas, and ten year old blonde Lucy Spencer disappears. The community assumes that her body will be found in the Big Woods, like other unresolved kidnappings that have happened in years past. Her sister Leah, 14,  receives a computer message that she believes is from Lucy. It says “underground. By the woods.” Leah is convinced that Lucy is alive, and the message signals her sister’s whereabouts.  Longview is gripped by paranoia surrounding the satanic cults of the 1980s.

Chapters are told alternately  from the point of view of Sylvia, a 75 year old retired nurse, and Leah. What, if anything, does Sylvia  have to do with the kidnapping? Sylvia married John and had no children. After she was widowed early, she went back to school to become a nurse and works with newborns. In fact, she was the nurse on duty when both Leah and Lucy were born.

On the day Lucy disappeared, It was her dad’s day to dress her, feed her, and get her to the school bus. A witness saw a man with a mustache in a small green convertible push Lucy into the car. Dad, an architect, begins to drink heavily and stay away from home after Lucy disappears.

Four children went missing before, but all were from the nearby town of Starrville, that is, until Lucy. Their bodies were found in the woods next to pentagram symbols and other signs pointing to cult activity.

This psychological thriller is written in short chapters, each only two or three pages, which helps to quicken the pace and heighten expectations. There is no on-page violence or descriptions, yet the book is tense and suspenseful.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2018.

Book Review: The Burial Hour by Jeffery Deaver

The Burial Hour
A Lincoln Rhyme Novel #13
Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing, April 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4555-3637-5
Hardcover

The latest Lincoln Rhyme mystery novel begins with an argument between the criminologist and his aide, Thom, about the forthcoming marriage of Rhyme and supercop Amelia Sachs. The controversy centers on where the honeymoon should take place, with unsentimental Lincoln lobbying for Greenland, where he can observe some new method or other, and Thom suggesting someplace more romantic.  Then fate intervenes in the form of an abduction and an odd form of murder, a hanging with a noose made of a cello gut string.

When the victim is rescued in the nick of time by Sachs, the perpetrator, a mental health escapee from an institution, apparently goes to Italy, where Sachs and Rhyme follow only to be treated shabbily by the Italian police and prosecutor.  Eventually, somehow all work together to solve the mystery, only after at least three more abductions take place.

Unlike previous entries in the series, forensic analysis is done by an Italian woman, albeit a capable technician, with Rhyme and Sachs only able to read the results. On the whole, this novel is less satisfying than previous books in the series. Perhaps the author strained as he based the plot on a controversial topic:  cascading immigration overwhelming the country.  Also, the conclusion is hardly in sync with previous novels featuring the criminologist.  However, it raises the question of whether the author is preparing readers for a seismic shift in future plotting.  Since there are glimmers of the old Lincoln Rhyme, this entry, as all previous ones, is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2017.