REVIEW: Murder Road by Simone St. James

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A young couple find themselves haunted by a string of gruesome murders committed along an old deserted road in this terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases.

July 1995. April and Eddie have taken a wrong turn. They’re looking for the small resort town where they plan to spend their honeymoon. When they spot what appears to a lone hitchhiker along the deserted road, they stop to help. But not long after the hitchiker gets into their car, they see the blood seeping from her jacket and a truck barreling down Atticus Line after them.

When the hitchhiker dies at the local hospital, April and Eddie find themselves in the crosshairs of the Coldlake Falls police. Unexplained murders have been happening along Atticus Line for years and the cops finally have two witnesses who easily become their only suspects. As April and Eddie start to dig into the history of the town and that horrible stretch of road to clear their names, they soon learn that there is something supernatural at work, something that could not only tear the town and its dark secrets apart, but take April and Eddie down with it all.

CW/TW – mention of past domestic abuse, mention of past racism, mention of past mental health issues

Dear Ms. St. James,

Whoa and damn. What a wild ride this book is. I zipped through the first half in a few hours (note to self, do not read a murder/thriller before going to bed). Then I tore through the rest the next day. After finishing it, I realize I can’t really say much about it without risking spoilers galore. My advice to readers is not to peek at the end. Don’t ruin it for yourself. Just stick with the blurb.

The unsolved murders outside this small, rural Michigan town are riddles wrapped in enigmas. Is it a serial killer doing these? Over the course of nineteen years? Or is this town just cursed with a series of killers stalking lone people? Or is there something else going on?

Of course I played detective with the clues that are known and discovered along the way. I turned them and flipped them and tried to come up with a solution that made them all fit together. Nope, didn’t happen until nearly the end when the pieces fell into place and All Is Revealed. This happens in a way that hooked me and swept me along. I think by now that most readers familiar with your books will know to expect a few types of things and that it probably won’t be pretty along the way.

Stories don’t always end the way they’re supposed to. They don’t always end well.

Eddie and April Carter both have some issues in their pasts to go along with their quick marriage after only a short time knowing each other. Eddie has post Iraq PTSD while April’s backstory is amazingly convoluted. Late in the story April muses that “I saw someone who was so different from me, yet whose darkness mirrored my own.” And somehow they fit together, know each other, are ready and willing to take on each other’s demons. What I really like about these two is that they are working class, living in a cheap apartment, headed for a low rent honeymoon when “life” sweeps them into this free-for-all and they want to stay and investigate. At first it’s to get them out from under police suspicion but then it’s a quest that they just won’t give up on solving. For all their faults, Eddie and April are decent people.

There are some other fantastic characters here. The Snell sisters are pieces of work. As one person says, they should be in the FBI because we want them working for us and not against us. Rose is another wonderful though crotchety older woman. She’s been given a hard road to travel, fills her house with kitsch, holds an unshakable grudge against the town police (for Reasons) but deep (really deep) inside she’s also a person you want on your side. Brava for what they all do at the end.

The police? Oh, dear. Just about every bad thing that can be said about police could be said about these police. But one of them does see Eddie’s truth and, backhandedly, gives him sage advice. One is a bastard but also determined to get to the bottom of these killings. The way he rounds things off is maybe – no, totally – unbelievable but this does answer some questions that would have been left flapping around in my brain so, there is that.

When I saw that this book was coming out, I immediately asked for it after only a cursory look at the blurb. I didn’t even go back and refresh my memory before starting to read it. Some authors I will just trust to give me a wonderful story and that has happened again with this one. It’s dark and twisted. Secrets are unearthed and loyalties are tested. The answers, when they’re finally discovered, are things that most people would probably never admit to believing. April does one really stupid thing but then, it gives us answers. There are a few other things done that are brushed away with “Why did this person do that? We don’t know.” but overall this is one hell of a good read. B+


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