I love Charlie Donlea’s books. In fact, I gave his last, The Woman in Darkness, 4.5 stars which is a rarity for me. I make the point in that book that his titles are always standalones but that I hoped to see one of the characters introduced there (Rory), again.
And, well… he was obviously listening cos, she’s back!*
Having said that, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read The Woman in Darkness as Donlea quickly shares Rory’s quirks and the abilities her autism offers her.
The Suicide House
by Charlie Donlea
Published by Bantam Australia
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9781760894849, 9781496727152
Inside the walls of Indiana's elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont's students as a late-night hangout.
One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house--to kill themselves.
Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening.
We spend quite a bit of time with young investigative journalist Ryder Hillier at the opening of this book. In fact I forgot the blurb had indicated Lane and Rory were going to appear.
The podcast isn’t Ryder’s baby (which is a sore point as she believes it was her idea) but she’s been looking into the murders and suicides for some time.
Forensic Psychologist Dr Lane Phillips is officially brought onto the podcast and his girlfriend Rory’s interest is piqued so we get two for the price of one here.
Donlea puts us in the head of a killer (whether it’s THE killer we don’t know for a long time) throughout this book. The plot also unfolds in several timeframes. There’s an unidentified timeline, featuring someone who’s killed and proudly sharing their stories through journal entries. In addition there’s the present and the unfolding re-investigation, as well as the lead-up to the murders a year earlier. And cleverly—though we meet the players from the year before—Donlea doesn’t tell us (for a long time) who has been murdered, who suicided and who is still alive.
He also introduces a few additional players and we’re not sure of their role so we’re very much in the dark and kept guessing.
After a slightly slow start, though I blame my confusion about our main characters and who I was supposed to be engaged with (!!!), this is brilliantly paced. It’s purposely frustrating for we readers as we’re privy to information from both timeframes and that of others and I felt impatient waiting for Lane and Rory to catch up and join the dots. So, it’s certainly edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Donlea’s a talented writer and his characters are always brilliant. It was great meeting Lane and Rory again (I do believe I’ve mentioned ten or twenty times how much I love Rory, but I also love how Lane loves (and accepts) Rory and knows her so well.) And here of course I enjoyed meeting Ryder, though Donlea doesn’t allow her to outshine Rory or Lane.
This is a twisty and clever book and another excellent read from Donlea. It also ends in such a way that I think there will be more Rory! So, yay!
The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea will be published on 4 August 2020 in Australia by Penguin Random House.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
* I realise Donlea would probably have already drafted this book by the time The Woman in Darkness was released so really do not think I had anything to do with it!