SECRETS TO DIE FOR by L.J. Sellers – review

July 21, 2010

Detective Wade Jackson, of the Eugene, Oregon Police Department, plays a somewhat more prominent role in this newest novel by L. J. Sellers, while his girlfriend, R.N. Kera Kollmorgan, has a lesser one than in Ms. Sellers’ prior book, The Sex Club. They each make terrific protagonists, equally altruistic and idealistic, despite their jobs.

When the dead body of Raina Hughes, a 20-year-old social worker, is found, suspicion immediately falls on the ex-con father of Josh Gorman, the eight-year-old boy she has been assigned to monitor in her volunteer position as a children’s support advocate. The boy had just been placed back in the care of his parents, and Raina has been refused admittance to their home so she can confirm that all is well. She had soon thereafter been brutally attacked and raped, and Detective Jackson is certain that the boy’s father is responsible. He suspects that there may be a connection between the murder and two recent rape cases in the area, but fails to find any connection among the victims.

Jackson, the father of a 14-year-old daughter and divorced from her substance-abusing mother, is particularly affected by the brutal attacks, all too easily envisioning his own daughter as a potential victim. He becomes convinced that the boy’s father is responsible, and no effort is spared to try to find the evidence to prove it. Although it appears that there is a serial rapist on the loose, the author allows the merest hint that there may be more than one assailant at work here, just enough to keep the reader off balance. As well, just possibly, the ex-con may not be the rapist/murderer. The brutality of the attacks is escalating, and they are happening with greater frequency. When another young woman goes missing, Jackson becomes desperate to find the man behind it all. Jackson allows his fear for his daughter to distract him, as yet another cop finds his family situation lessening his concentration on the case as well, with nearly fatal consequences. Among other things, the book is about dysfunctional families and the efforts to cope with them, as well as about some other things, secrets that must come out if the case is to be resolved. When Jackson begins to suspect that Gorman may be innocent, he realizes that if Gorman wasn’t the killer, then someone else out there was raping and beating women, and another girl may be next if he doesn’t solve this case quickly.

A young woman journalist helps Jackson find the clues that give him the connection he seeks, and then it becomes a matter of time and the chase to see if he can find the answer in time to stop another brutal death. The suspense accelerates at a commensurate speed, and secrets abound, further frustrating Jackson’s efforts. The conclusion is one that shouldn’t surprise many, but manages to do so nonetheless. Leaving Jackson and the reader to ask, how on earth could things have come to this?


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Gloria Feit

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