River Road by Carol Goodman (3 out of 5)

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This one starts out with a slightly drunk creative writing teacher Nan Lewis taking off in anger after a Christmas faculty party reveals that she’s not being granted tenure. After trying to find out why from various members of the party, she takes off- slightly toasted. On her way home, she hits what she believes is a deer. She abandons her car at the foot of her driveway and staggers home to pass out. The next day she finds out from a police officer knocking on her door that one of her favorite students Leia Dawson was killed in a hit-and-run accident. The police see the damage to her car, and despite her story, immediately suspect Nan. She’s detained and then set free, when the forensics tests reveal that it’s not Leia’s flesh in her tires, but a deer. Then they arrest Ross, the head of the department and a former flame of Nan’s. Nan sets out to find out what happened, but not before everything and everyone around her and in the school comes under some sort of suspicion. Who hit Leia? Who tried to kill Ross and Nan with a set-up suicide? What led to all the drama at the holiday party? Do you care by the end of the book? Is there a serial killer who hits people with their car? Is there such a thing? The reader is brought to the precipice of thinking perhaps there is.

I have read Carol Goodman’s previous books. The Lake Of Dead Languages is still on my list of favorite mysteries of all time. This one doesn’t even come close. It held me all the way until halfway through, when the number of suspects exponentially skyrocketed. Add in all sorts of ridiculous melodrama, and a side-plot about drug usage that somehow ends up tying in with Leia’s death. I bought that, too, until the final scene in which Nan almost dies. The worst offender in the drug wars in this town bites it, but the pretty boy frat student who has a thing for Nan doesn’t? There’s no way anyone could have survived that scenario that’s given to the reader. When the side plot is revealed in full, you find yourself shaking your head. I did! Worse yet, I guessed who was behind the whole thing. I think the hardest thing to swallow was the side-plot, a plagiarized book, and the ultimate who-done-it. I figured it out right away. Sadly, I was right. Sadly, this book failed to live up to my expectations. I wanted to smack Nan much of the way through the book- and this is a woman who lost a child to a hit-and-run! Those are characters who are supposed to draw sympathy, not ire. Not here. I was annoyed to the max. I will say this, though, Carol Goodman knows how to pull you in. There was no shortage of suspects, either, which is always a nice bonus. Sadly, though, no shortage of surprise at the culprit.

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~ by generationgbooks on February 5, 2016.

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