Thought You Were Dead
Review: Terry Griggs pens a most unusual tale, in a most unusual manner, with Thought You Were Dead, a murder mystery set in and about a fictional town in Ontario. Also included every few chapters or so are illustrations by Nick Craine.
The story features Chellis Beith, whose primary job is to research characters, locations, even methods of murder, for mystery writer Athena Havlock, who doesn't write under her own name, reserving that for more literate (and far less lucrative) novels. He's also slightly obsessed with women. As Athena tells him, "[Y]our mother abandons you as a baby, your adoptive mother dies, foolishly, unnecessarily, your girlfriend leaves you and marries someone else, but still uses you for test-marketing, and you are employed, dominated shall we say, by another female — me. Your experience of women has been nothing but abandonment and betrayal." It is during the course of one of his research adventures for Athena that he learns of the murder of a local book reviewer. It doesn't really affect him one way or the other — after all, he's only assumes the role of a private investigator when he's trying to unearth something for his employer to use in one of her books — but then Athena vanishes and Chellis discovers a vast amount of information relating to the murder in her house. He initially attributes it to background material for a new mystery by the author, but later thinks it may be more sinister.
Thought You Were Dead demands quite a bit from the reader. Though not quite non-linear in style, it often reads that way. Chapters frequently start in a different time or place and it isn't until 2 or 3 pages pass that what's occurring right then and there becomes apparent. Similarly, an event may occur mid-chapter but not be explained until later. For example, when Chellis is hit on the head by an errant golf ball, it isn't until several rather incoherent paragraphs later that the golfer enters the picture to explain what happened. True, it helps illustrate the confusion in Chellis' mind at the time, but to the reader, it's merely confusing. There are also many, possibly just a few too many, diversions onto other topics, not necessarily unrelated to the murder mystery plot but definitely tangential. Finally, there's a sense that the author is having a bit of fun here. Images of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are evoked at times, albeit in a somewhat satirical manner.
Still and all, those readers looking for an unconventional novel with a unique sense of style, voice and place, will find Thought You Were Dead a most satisfying choice.
Acknowledgment: Biblioasis provided a copy of Thought You Were Dead for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Thought You Were Dead: Ontario, Canada
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Thought You Were Dead by Terry Griggs
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: April 2009
List Price: $18.95