Old Sins Cast Long Shadows
People are creatures of puzzles and riddles. That is the only way I can explain my secretive, yet undeniable attraction towards articles on unsolved murders, as well as the fiction books exploring such ‘cold cases’. That’s also the reason why I’ve picked up Dead Again by Susan Lynn Solomon.
The book starts with a short prologue by the main character, Emlyn Goode – a young fiction writer, who introduces the reader to everything she knows about the murder that happened in her hometown, 40 years ago. We find out that Emlyn, who lives at Niagara Falls, is also a descendant of Sarah Goode – a witch from Salem, who passed long ago. Emlyn cherishes her connection with the art of witchcraft, and the thoughts of her ancestor (preserved in the form of a diary called the Book of Shadows) are ever present in Emlyn’s life. Oh, her cat Elvira is also keeping her company.
In contrast to the affection of her feline companionship, Emlyn has a rather troubled connection with her mother, Anne. When Anne suddenly returns to Niagara Falls just in time for a high school reunion, Emlyn has a feeling that her mother is keeping something from her. Solomon’s writing creates an absorbing and suspenseful atmosphere using repetitive clues, which seem to be constantly building towards some imminent yet unknown disaster. Throughout the first few chapters in particular, the reader is constantly on the lookout for something bad to happen.
For all of this grim foreshadowing, the reader is still likely to be surprised when an actual murder does take place at the reunion. The death – and the thrilling mystery that surrounds it – unleashes a torrent of new mysteries and grisly details from the past, which return us to the decades-old unsolved murder case of the prologue. Adding to the creeping sense of something strange, a secretive conspiracy seems to revolve around the group of Anne’s high school friends. Behind everyone’s polished smiles lies a firm and mutual interest to keep the past in the past. The author successfully makes a suspect out of everyone in the town, and Emlyn cannot suppress her desire to investigate on her own.
Soon, the stakes are much higher for Emlyn, as another tragic event occurs, and she decides to face the dangers of her mission to reveal the truth – no matter what the outcome.
Emlyn is certainly a well-developed character. She is not the most patient or tolerant person, many spontaneous actions get her into trouble, and she definitely doesn’t like to listen to other people’s advice. Yet her determination to reveal the truth makes a brave individual, and one who is worthy of the reader’s respect. The plot isn’t driven by just Emlyn’s actions alone however. Instead, she is surrounded by a few very close friends, who remain loyal in helping her to solve the murders.
Emlyn’s family history of witchcraft and her growing connection to her supernatural roots is one of the most interesting aspects of the novel. When all her mortal strengths have been exhausted, Emlyn dives deep into her ancestor’s Book of Shadows, and accepts her magical power. Witnessing the results of her learning is captivating.
Solomon writes in very clear and accessible manner. Her style also favors humor, especially in characters’ dialogue. The story progresses in a logical way, and the pacing is just right, without being too slow or too rushed. There is only one chapter where Solomon eases up on the action, but she does so only in order to dig deeper into the more emotional side of Emlyn’s character.
Dead Again is a thrilling murder mystery that explores complicated family connections, as well as old sins that cast long shadows. My only critique would be that the ending felt a little bit rushed. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an intriguing mystery with a comic touch, and who is not afraid of a little bit of magic.