Monday, April 17, 2017
Anna Winger can know people better than they know themselves with only a glance—at their handwriting. Hired out by companies wanting to land trustworthy employees and by the lovelorn hoping to find happiness, Anna likes to keep the real-life mess of other people at arm’s length and on paper. But when she is called to use her expertise on a note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son have recently moved to, the crime gets under Anna’s skin and rips open her narrow life for all to see. To save her son—and herself—once and for all, Anna will face her every fear, her every mistake, and the past she thought she'd rewritten. -- William Morrow
THE DAY I DIED by Lori Rader-Day is classified as a mystery/psychological suspense novel; however, I think I'll most remember it as an in-depth look at the toll an abusive relationship can take on a person. That's not to say that the mystery aspect of this novel wasn't intriguing, because it most certainly was. I'm just saying that the strength of this story came with the character of Anna Winger and her attempts to come to terms with her past.
Anna Winger is the narrator of THE DAY I DIED. She is a handwriting expert who keeps a fairly low profile. Through the years, she and her son Joshua have moved from small town to small town trying to hide from her ex-husband who once abused her. When Anna is asked to help with a case for a missing toddler, the crime hits a little too close to home for her.
Meanwhile, Joshua, now a surly teenage, is beginning to act out. The sheriff, with whom Anna is working with on the case... and feeling quite the attraction to, notifies her about Joshua's involvement in painting graffiti around town. Things between Anna and Joshua escalate, and Joshua eventually goes missing too. Anna's involvement in both cases of the missing kids brings a lot of intense feelings to the forefront and forces her to face many of the demons from her past.
I really enjoyed THE DAY I DIED, and I can definitely see why Ms. Rader-Day is an award winning author. (In fact, I can't wait to read her earlier novels -- I think I even have an autographed one in my basement!) She definitely knows how to tell a story, and her talent in bringing to life characters is nothing to scoff at. After I finished this novel, I was extremely impressed with how real she made the fears and emotions of a battered woman; and I would say that it's definitely the strength of this book.
As far as mysteries go, I did appreciate the dual storylines of the missing kids. Since one was a toddler, I was naturally more interested in how this child just went missing. I kind of had a feeling what happened to Joshua and knew he was responsible for some of his actions. Having said that, I was curious about how both stories were going to be resolved. However, if I have one issue with this book (and it's a slight one), I thought how the two stories came together was just a little too coincidental. Don't get me wrong, the author didn't make the resolutions convenient or an easy way out. It was just a little too coincidental that both kids ended up in the same town.
I do think the author did a good job of bringing to life the character of Anna. She was a terrific narrator and I really grew to appreciate her voice. Notice I said "grew." Anna was difficult to get a grip on early in the novel. She was brusque and almost unlikable. However, I definitely warmed up to her as the story went on... and I even ended up liking her quite a bit once I got to know her. I always did enjoy her social commentary though and found her to be funny in a sarcastic way.
THE DAY I DIED actually did make me think quite a bit... and it was more than the whodunnit aspects of the novel. Anna's personality and psyche were such a result of her past, and it was so interesting to learn about her. I have to commend the author for making Anna's experiences with domestic violence so real and almost terrifying in a quiet way. (I know that doesn't make sense but you have to read the book -- Ms. Rader-Day has major skills with prose!)
Overall, I really enjoyed THE DAY I DIED. It's a terrific literary mystery that will give you something to think about for days after finishing the book. Highly recommended.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.