The Levee by Malcolm Shuman (Canada) - (US)
Finished: Jan. 3, 2010
First Published: Nov. 2008
Genre: mystery, suspense
When I was fifteen we used to drive down to the levee to camp.
Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.
Reason for Reading: The publisher's plot synopsis grabbed me right away and being a mystery fan I just had to read this one.
Summary: Colin, now in his sixties, is haunted by dreams of a past event that happened when he was 15 and he can't remember which of his dreams/memories are really accurate or just from a vivid imagination. He has become the author of True Crime books and just finished a particularly harrowing one where the murderer invited him to interview him on condition he watch his execution. This sends Colin back to his hometown of Baton Rouge to unravel the truth about the night that the Spanish teacher was killed in the cemetery while they were camping near by and Colin and the other boys each knew a little more than they ever told the police, or each other.
Comments: This rather unimposing book, just over 200 pages with a fairly dull cover is hiding a terrific mystery within its pages. Likened on the back to Stephen King's The Body (Stand By Me) it does capture the same nostalgia of a man looking back at a pivotal moment from his 1950s childhood, a day that changed the boys' lives forever and the day the innocence of a child left them all.
The book wanders back and forth, often within the same chapter, from the adult Colin's quest and seeking into his past as he finds only one friend left still living in the hometown to young Collin's re-telling of the days surrounding the murder. The whole book is told in the first person, there are little breaks between time shifts and I found it flowed nicely. The majority of the book is spent in the past with little forays into Colin's present until the story nears the end and the final reveal is given.
The quality of the mystery is superb. I didn't find myself trying to guess the culprit as everyone in the book was doing that, seemingly leaving no person beyond suspicion. When the reveal comes, it is totally out of the blue and unexpected but I wasn't shocked. It fit so naturally. It was an "Ahaaa" moment. Shuman pulls this off very cleverly and there is nothing I love more than a clever mystery writer. The back of my book tells my Mr. Shuman has written 14 mysteries to date, but a quick look at amazon shows that they mostly seem to be out-of-print. I must track down another of his books through the library system to see if his other work is as clever as this one.