Sunday, November 29, 2015

My take on: The Last September

Charlie Moss has been murdered. His mentally ill brother, Eli, is a suspect. Charlie has a calming presence and he could always find a solution for Eli's unpredictable behavior. Charlie was the protector, especially when it came to his brother. Was Eli finally tired of his brother? What was the final straw? It's a mystery. Charlie's wife, Brett, and his young daughter, Sarah, are left to pick up the pieces. 

Sounds like a murder mystery doesn't? But The Last September by Nina de Gramont is about about so much more. This book is about the years of friendship and love between Brett, Eli, and Charlie. It's about the love a brother has for a brother. It's about the love Brett and Charlie had for each other. Charlie's murder is just a small piece of a much larger emotional puzzle that Brett must solve. Before she can move on, Brett has to figure out how their lives got to this point?

The book starts out in the present day. Charlie, Brett, and Sarah are living in his father's cottage on Cape Cod. They are struggling financially. Their marriage appears to be shaky. They don't need Eli and his erratic behavior. But Eli is coming to the house. Brett draws a line in the sand and refuses to put their daughter or herself in harm's way. She spends the night with a friend, and returns alone to the house. What she discovers is shocking. Eli is confused and covered in blood. What has happened? A stunned Brett finds Charlie's bloodied body. There's only one conclusion right? Eli must have done it? It's not so simple, and that's when the book shifts back to the past.

The friendship between Eli, Brett, and Charlie began in college. Eli and Brett were friends before Charlie ever came into the picture. Brett was the person Eli could be vulnerable with. Boyfriends came and went, but Eli was always there. A short chance encounter with Charlie, and Brett knew she was in love. It wasn't quite the same for Charlie. A devastated Brett moves on and gets engaged to another man, Ladd. But Charlie was never far from Brett's heart and mind. The same could be said for Eli. His descent into madness changed his friendship with Brett. The closeness is gone, but deep down Brett has always cared for Eli.

Ladd loves his fiancee, but he knows that Charlie has a hold over Brett. He's been burned by Charlie before. Ladd is just waiting for it to happen again. Of course it happens again. Brett feels extremely guilty for breaking Ladd's heart, but she has to follow her own heart. She follows it to Charlie. What if she didn't? It's a question that haunts Brett. What if she had stayed with Ladd? Wouldn't Charlie still be alive? Did her past choices ultimately kill Charlie? She can't think like that.

Brett never would have experienced such a deep love or motherhood if she hadn't chosen Charlie. Her life, while hard, was better with him in it. Charlie wouldn't have felt like himself if he couldn't help his brother. As long as Charlie was in his life, Eli was comfortable in his own madness. My take from this book, everyone is responsible for their own choices, including Charlie and Eli. Everything happened for a reason.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin Books). The Last September is the fall selection for She Reads.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My take on: Then No One Can Have Her

TV shows like Snapped, 48 Hours, Lockup, and just about anything on Investigation ID are extremely addicting for me. True-crime novels are right up my alley. Although, I must confess that books by the late Ann Rule were always at the top of my list. But.....Caitlin Rother has become one of my favorites too.

Rother's latest book, Then No One Can Have Her, is a deep dive into the July 2008 murder of Carol Kennedy, a divorced mother of two. The obvious suspect was her ex-husband Steven DeMocker.

Why him? Isn't that a little too easy? Sometimes the most obvious answer is the correct one. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that Steve DeMocker is a murder. This book is a detailed, well-researched account of the events leading up to Carol's murder and the years after that it took to bring him to trial.

Some parts of this book were so hard, and at the same time so infuriating to read. Carol was bludgeoned to death. The details were stomach-churning. This woman suffered in her final moments. The infuriating part was Steve's behavior after the fact. His narcissism comes through loud and clear in the book. There wasn't a whole lot of empathy on his part, even for his own daughters Katie and Charlotte. He showed no emotion while his grieving daughters eulogized their mother. Steve's own speech at the funeral was not about Carol but himself. His "alibi" was also just a little too convenient, a sudden bike ride on the night of the murder. A bike ride on a trail which no one saw him. A bike ride that resulted in scratches on his body. A bike ride that was suspiciously near Carol's home. A bike ride that resulted in a flat tire. A bike ride in which his cellphone was mysteriously turned off for several hours. 

There's so much that pointed to Steve's guilt. He owned a set of golf clubs, which were consistent with the suspected murder weapon. Yet it would take years before a trial got underway. Changes in Steve's defense team and changes behind the bench led to delay after delay. Where's good old Steve these days? I think everyone can guess.

Where do people like Steve DeMocker come from? Why do they do what they do? What gives them the right to be judge, jury, and executioner over innocent people? It's hard to know or even comprehend. But writers, like Caitlin Rother, are doing a good job to bring light to these cases. This one is worth a read.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Kensington Publishing) as part of a blog tour.