Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Way Life Should Be by Terry Shaw

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Way Life Should Be by Terry Shaw. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Way Life Should Be by Terry Shaw

The Way Life Should Be by Terry Shaw

Simon & Schuster Touchstone (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-4165-6312-1 (1416563121)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-6312-9 (9781416563129)
Publication Date: September 2007
List Price: $14.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Newspaper editor John Quinn and his wife have returned to his hometown to raise their son, but real estate prices have soared and natives are being pushed out. Then a popular politician and family man is murdered at a well-known gay pickup spot. The victim was Quinn's childhood friend, Paul Stanwood. Quinn insists Paul was only investigating a police crackdown at the park.

When the police chief and others seem to ignore and downplay obvious clues, Quinn takes matters into his own hands. Even though his wife's car is vandalized and a source is severely beaten after he speaks out on the hidden violence against gays, Quinn refuses to stop looking for answers. With so many people hiding secrets -- secrets some are willing to kill for -- Quinn has to find out the truth about his friend's murder before he, too, is permanently silenced.

Review: Winner of the 2007 First Chapters writing competition, the mystery novel The Way Life Should Be by Terry Shaw is an intriguing character study of life in a small town along the coast.

John Quinn's family had been living in Stone Harbor for generations and running the local newspaper for the better part of the last century. Following the death of his father, Quinn, who had left Stone Harbor to seek a more exciting life, returned to the small town to assume operational and editorial control of the family business. When Paul Stanwood, a close friend, is murdered in a local park known as a meeting place for gay men, Quinn is shocked not only at the death of his friend but that he may also have been leading a secret life. Determined to discover the truth behind Stanwood's murder, Quinn begins an investigation that takes him down a path of secrets and lies that winds its way through his hometown.

Shaw depicts life in this small Maine town through his characters, and the depth of their development as the story progresses is one of the strong points of the book. Though Quinn is the primary character, his family, friends, and associates all play substantial parts and are given fully developed roles. The author also asks some important questions about the newspaper business. What function does a small town paper play in an age of global media empires and the internet? As a business, should the primary motivation be to make a profit or to be a voice for the community? Can one be achieved without sacrificing the other?

At its core, however, The Way Life Should Be is a mystery and ironically this may be its weakest point. From a plot perspective, the murder and its resolution are well thought out. But the attempts at misdirection are handled clumsily and at times seem disjointed or incomplete. The fluid point-of-view doesn't help and can change abruptly, sometimes within a single paragraph. When two or more men are together in a scene, for example, it often isn't clear to whom the "he" refers.

Despite these minor shortcomings, The Way Life Should Be is a considered, thoughtful debut mystery and is recommended.

Special thanks to Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for providing an ARC of The Way Life Should Be for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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