Review: One of Us

one-of-us“From the New York Times bestselling author of Back Roads comes a fast-paced literary thriller about a forensic psychologist forced to face his own demons after discovering his small hometown terrorized by a serial killer.
Dr. Sheridan Doyle—a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist—is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago.
Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners’ deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny—in pursuit of a killer—comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.
In this masterfully told psychological thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, the past and present collide to put Lost Creek’s long-lived ghosts to bed.” – Publisher Summary

Sheridan “Danny” Doyle is a much-lauded forensic psychologist, a small-town boy made good. His specialty is working with perpetrators of heinous crimes – evaluating them, testifying at their trials, and writing books about his experiences with them. The most haunting case of his life, however, he has kept to himself.

As a young boy, Danny’s mother was convicted of murdering his infant sister. Despite her claims of innocence, she spent the remainder of Danny’s childhood in prison, leaving him at the mercy of his alcoholic, abusive father. An ungainly and unpopular child, Danny was lucky to have the support and protection of both his maternal grandfather, Tommy, and a local policeman named Rafe.

Years later, after securing success in his chosen field, Danny returns to his the tiny, broken-down coal-mining town of Lost Creek to care for his grandfather, Tommy, who is recovering from pneumonia. While Tommy has recovered better than expected, Danny winds up sticking around after he stumbles upon a dead body near the deserted gallows that were the scene of a horrifying crime over a century ago. This incident, in which a group of mostly innocent young men were executed at the hands of the nefarious, wealthy owner of the mine lives on in the minds of the township, particularly the relatives of the executed men, one of which is Tommy.

It soon becomes clear that Danny’s brush with death at the gallows is to be just one of many deadly incidents during his visit to Lost Creek. Danny and his childhood mentor, Rafe, work together to discover the mastermind behind it all. While on the trail of this present-day killer, clues begin accumulating, bringing Danny ever closer to the truth about what happened so many years ago when his infant sister was found buried in his backyard and his mentally ill mother was ripped from his arms and sent to prison for a crime she claims to this day she did not commit.

I have to admit that working my way through this book felt like homework at times; I wasn’t hanging by the edge of my seat all throughout. O’Dell did create a solid plot and some delightfully eccentric characters that put a smile on my face. I adored the 96-year-old independent Tommy, who drives his ancient truck around town terrorizing random citizens while coughing up coal-tinted phlegm. Danny himself is a total clothes-horse, only to be rivaled by a similarly fashion-minded psychic dog… Scarlet, the mine-owner’s daughter, is chilling as an icy-blooded sociopath as she makes her way around town in yet more fabulous clothing – and an even more fabulous mink coat. Oh, yes, y’all – Tawni O’Dell knows her fashion!

One of Us by Tawni O’Dell is an intricate mystery that unfortunately drags in places. O’Dell skillfully makes up for this, however, with her memorable characters and depiction of a small coal-mining town. There are so many threads to the mysteries in this novel, both the present and the past, and O’Dell weaves them together skillfully, bringing the reader to an end that is ultimately both shocking and satisfying.

One of Us by Tawni O’Dell. Buy it, read it, love it.

3 stars

Source: Gallery Books {via NetGalley}

 

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