Barnes & Noble is not my favorite bookstore, although I will say that they have some good clearance books. This Joyce Maynard novel is from B&N, and it was a very unconventional take on a murder mystery.
Rachel and her sister Patty live in Marin County, California in 1979, and a serial killer is at large. Known as the Sunset Strangler, the killer strangles women on the mountain in Rachel and Patty’s backyard. Their dad, Anthony, is the detective in charge of the investigation.
Rachel and Patty watch their father be consumed by the case. The body count grows, but no evidence is found. People are angry at the lack of suspects, and their dad deteriorates before the girls’ eyes.
Upset to see her father in such low spirits, Rachel decides to take matters into her own hands, and tries to give her dad a suspect– even though it’s the wrong one.
This story is not your average murder mystery because it doesn’t focus on the killings, so much as how they impact everyone. Rachel and Patty lose their father to it, and the only times they see him are his televised press conferences. Rachel gains popularity for her relationship to the head detective, but loses those same “friends” when progress isn’t made on the case. Readers see how Anthony’s confidence wanes as the case progresses, and it impacts him in a big way.
Rachel is the narrator, and we get to read about her future as well. She’s a writer, and uses her new novel to try and draw out the Sunset Strangler, thirty years after the original murders. Is she able to catch the real killer?
As different as this is for a murder mystery, it does focus on something important– how are the people involved in the case impacted by it all? It gives a more real-life feel to the story, and makes it unlike anything I’ve read.