The other evening, I wouldn't leave my bedroom until I finished DEEPER THAN THE DEAD by Tami Hoag. When I first started going through problems several years ago, and I realized that my marriage was over, I'd spend hours just laying on the living room floor in front of the open patio door, reading. Tami Hoag was a constant favorite for me back then, and I've gotten away from her latest stuff. I remember tearing apart NIGHT SINS and GUILTY AS SIN during a week when we were having some awesome nighttime thunder storms. Hey, in the Carolinas, it's not unheard of. Great mood setting for creepy, dark reading. Too bad I didn't feel the television movie of NIGHT SINS did the book any justice, but I still watched it.
Taken from the product description at Amazon:
California, 1984. Three children, running in the woods behind their school, stumble upon a partially buried female body, eyes and mouth glued shut. Close behind the children is their teacher, Anne Navarre, shocked by this discovery and heartbroken as she witnesses the end of their innocence. What she doesn't yet realize is that this will mark the end of innocence for an entire community, as the ties that bind families and friends are tested by secrets uncovered in the wake of a serial killer's escalating activity.
Detective Tony Mendez, fresh from a law enforcement course at FBI headquarters, is charged with interpreting those now revealed secrets. He's using a new technique-profiling-to develop a theory of the case, a strategy that pushes him ever deeper into the lives of the three children, and closer to the young teacher whose interest in recent events becomes as intense as his own.
As new victims are found and the media scrutiny of the investigation bears down on them, both Mendez and Navarre are unsure if those who suffer most are the victims themselves-or the family and friends of the killer, blissfully unaware that someone very close to them is a brutal, calculating psychopath.
DEEPER THAN THE DEAD left me with that same impression I had all those years ago -- Tami Hoag is a damned fine writer. DTTD takes place in the mid-80s, and at first I was skeptical. I was a young kid back in those days, and I remember thinking that everything we had then was so up-to-date and technologically savvy - we were cool, dude! Today I look at the hairstyles and shudder. I cringe when I remember that, yes, I was a fan of leg warmers over jeans in those days. And don't get me started on the moon boots. Egads...
What I liked best about this book is Ms. Hoag's several red herrings throughout the pages. Yeah sure, there's a serial killer running around -- but sshh! don't mention those words, because the country was still reeling from the media frenzy that was Ted Bundy, and we don't need a panic -- but core to the story is Anne Navarre's unwavering concern for her students and how they're dealing with the fact that they found a dead body. This small town strives hard to appear as a quaint, postcard-perfect little town, but there are several secrets that many folks will do anything to keep it that way, and Anne and Tony, along with the help of Tony's FBI buddy, Vince Leone, start ticking them off, one by one.
In the books I read now, I take for granted the modern technology that characters use, computerized national databases, cellphones that send and receive photos, task forces and elite teams that specialize in every imaginable type of crime. Back in 1984, they didn't have all of that, and cops had to use the brains God gave 'em, and do a lot of pavement pounding to solve cases. They still do, don't get me wrong, but with shows like CSI, Law & Order, and Criminal Minds nowadays, it's hard to imagine how cops ever caught the bad guys back in those days. Hoag's latest book takes that thought, expands on it, and proves that you don't need all of the fancy gadgetry to catch the perp. I guess she had fun reveling in the good ol' days, because she's set to have another book come out in December, SECRETS TO THE GRAVE, which features the same time period and allows us to revisit the characters from DEEPER THAN THE DEAD. I, for one, can't wait for it...