Friday, February 5, 2010

Review of Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag

From Journal Gazette and Times-Courier (Illinois) --

BOOK REVIEW: 'Deeper Than the Dead' By Tami Hoag --

Review by Juanita Sherwood --
January 25, 2010 --

Tami Hoag writes a good thriller. Some of her earlier books were more romance-oriented than many of her current offerings, but this one offers a bit of both.

The book is set in 1985, before much of today’s crime-solving technology was available. The plot offers a saga of a community that is inhabited by an especially horrendous serial killer.

He kidnaps his victims and tortures them by gluing their lips together and their eyelids closed with Super Glue. He then destroys their eardrums by piercing them and proceeds to inflict pain on the victims. He eventually kills them and disposes of their bodies.

Previous murders committed by this disturbed individual had not been noted as similar by authorities until one was found buried in a shallow grave in a community park in Oak Knoll. The victim’s head was above ground, resting on a rock as on a pillow. The site was discovered by two fifth-graders taking a shortcut through the woods on their way home from school.

Educators will appreciate this book, as the teacher of the fifth-graders, Anne Navarre, is one of the main characters. Her relationship with her students and their parents, the parents’ relationship with their youngsters, and the involvement of the authorities who hope to solve the crime all seem true to life.

Some of the students in the class have problems of their own, some not quite as transparent as others. The behavior of one student is questionable from the beginning, but escalates beyond anyone’s expectations as the story progresses. Making matters worse is that his father is involved in law enforcement.

Other parents have issues that might seem stereotypical, but nevertheless, serve important roles in the story. One mother, for instance, seems cold-hearted and self-centered, but her son seems to be “Mr. Perfect.” Another mother’s son is timid and easily swayed by others.

One young female student’s mother seems to have a perfect life, but the stress of the situation with the kids discovering the body seems to shatter the pseudo-perfection.

The author has done a good job of portraying 10-year-olds, both in their personal lives and in school-related situations. It is easy to “feel” for them.

Entering into the mix are two other main characters. One is Tony Mendez, local detective, who had been to classes at the FBI Academy on the latest information regarding crime-solving techniques. There he met an instructor with whom he “connected,” Vince Leone.

Sometime after Mendez’s time at the academy was over, Leone was mugged in a parking lot, where he was shot in the head. The bullet fragmented and some of it was in places that doctors could not remove without causing extensive damage. He suffered effects from the fragments, such as physical weakness at times and headaches on occasion.

Mendez contacts the FBI for assistance when he realizes that similar killings have occurred in nearby communities. The FBI is backlogged with cases, but Leone, who is still on leave due to his wounds, decides to travel to California on his own to offer Mendez assistance.

There, Leone’s personal life will take a change for the better. Many of the other characters, both young and adult, will meet challenges as the story progresses.

After the identity of the killer is revealed, the reader may find that it was not totally unexpected, but other clues seemed to implicate another. This is typical Hoag: misdirection; tense, startling situations; and a bit of humanity at its worst.

This is a good read if you like thrillers. It also illustrates how much technology has improved and currently aids in solving crimes.

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