Mix, Match and Murder
Review: When twenty-two-year-old Jason Dumont was seven years old in November 1993, he suffered a mind-numbing tragedy. His mother, Melanie, sometimes known as "Lottie," was stabbed to death in the Minneapolis hotel room they shared and where she was having sex with a stranger. Since the killer's knife belonged to Jason's modelling kit and he was found incoherent but naked and covered in blood, he was the primary suspect, although never convicted much to the chagrin of Detective Lieutenant Dan Arnold. Now, fifteen years later Jason has returned to Minneapolis and the scene of the crime so he and Jennifer Cahill, a specialist in child psychology, can unlock the repressed memories of Jason's selective traumatic amnesia and determine his guilt or innocence. Raymond John's thriller, Mix, Match and Murder, follows the psychological analysis of Jason's case, with side trips into a couple of Cahill's files for her delinquent clients and encounters with a couple of adults with mental health issues of their own.
With psychological jargon kept to a minimum, John still manages to create an atmosphere of a troubled young man, obsessed with amnesia and troubled with guilt both for what he may have done and for not being able to protect his mother from murder. Extended family relationships are well-developed both for Melanie's relatives and for her husband, Lawrence's. And several kin on either side emerge as potential suspects as Jason unravels his skein of disruptive memories with help from Jennifer, prodding from Detective Arnold, and three boxes of his mother's belongings, her diary, and a long-forgotten plush toy rabbit of his own. Clues are strategically placed and uncovered at just the right time, such as the bloodied knife at the bottom of the stairwell in the hotel Jason is revisiting. There are sufficient historical facts and references to Minneapolis landmarks to flavour the story as well. There's even an overseas search in French Guiana for some missing evidence. And as the story comes closer to exposing Melanie's killer, new homicides and near-homicides occur to heighten the tension, including an accident with Jason's private aircraft.
Although the action-reaction between the characters works for the most part, Jennifer's willingness to have a sexual relationship with her client, Jason, and immediately declare her love for him is a bit of a stretch, given the potential loss of her license to which she admits is a cause for concern. As a professional therapist, she seems somewhat flighty as well in her daydreaming about, and flirting with, other male characters in the story although to her credit her reference to one of them as having "the personality of a wet tennis shoe" is one of the best lines in the book. Her repartee with her problem-child clients is solid as well and insightful of situations real life psychiatrists might face. Jason's ambivalence over his guilt is nicely illustrated, too, and his explosions of anger and frustration are believable outcomes even if shattering to Jennifer. Equally credible is the ending, although both the villain of the piece and the hero of the moment come as well-kept surprises.
Mix, Match and Murder follows Raymond John's earlier book, The Cellini Masterpiece, and is an entertaining, well-constructed psychological thriller.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Mix, Match and Murder.
Acknowledgment: Raymond John provided an ARC of Mix, Match and Murder for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Cellini Masterpiece
North Star Press (Trade Paperback), August 2006
ISBN-13: 9780878392339; ISBN-10: 0878392335
Location(s) referenced in Mix, Match and Murder: Minneapolis, Minnesota
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Mix, Match and Murder by Raymond John
Publisher: North Star Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $14.95