Cannonball Read V: Did You Miss Me? by Karen Rose
I’ve worked in a few bookstores in my life, and the best by far was the Island Bookstore in Corolla, North Carolina. It was a small, independent bookstore that carried more than just the expected “beach books.” It was a stone’s throw or two from the Atlantic Ocean, about half a mile from a lighthouse and another half mile from my very favourite house museum, the Whalehead Club. But the very, very best part was the employee discount: forty-freaking-percent. And now I’m having trouble remembering why I’m not still working there. Anyways, needless to say, I bought a lot of books during my summer in Corolla. Many of them were by Karen Rose.
It was during that summer that I Can See You by Rose was released. I picked up the hardcover to read during my shift and got so swept up in that I bought it, took it home, and spent the rest of the night reading it. The next day, I bought every other Rose book we had in stock. I subsequently ordered the rest of her backlist. I’ve been a reader of Rose ever since. Karen Rose books are exhausting, and I’m not just saying that because I’m incapable of putting them down and invariably finish them around 3 o’clock in the morning. They’re exhausting because she writes dense, multi-layered stories which all take place in under a week. Did You Miss Me? was no different.
The only things a Rose murder mystery has in common with pulp fiction or noir-type stories are the “murder” and the “mystery.” Rose writes procedurals featuring police task forces. In a single book, you follow detectives, federal agents, prosecutors, medical examiners, hell, even the crime scene units. You sit through actual meetings. If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. I’ve read all of Rose’s books. I am a fan of the format. That said, Did You Miss Me? felt like too much. Too many characters, too many layers, too much trauma.
Daphne Montgomery is a states attorney in Baltimore, tasked with prosecuting a young man with ties to a white supremacist group in the double murder of a middle-aged black couple. When the book begins, she’s been receiving threats for weeks. Her son’s kidnapping naturally seems to be tied to her case. FBI Special Agent Joseph Carter is tasked with finding Daphne’s son, a goal which rapidly becomes clouded when the guilty verdict is read, and the bodies start piling up. Daphne and Joseph are both characters with traumatic pasts. This is to be expected, as characters with non-traumatic histories are beasts which do not occur in Karen Rose books. The trouble in this one, however, was that Daphne’s past trauma just would not stop. It was one thing on top of another, all coming to the fore. It stretched the limits of credulity, and this is from someone who will believe just about anything a writer tells her.
Daphne’s mountain of baggage aside, I enjoyed the book. I tend to think of Rose’s method of storytelling as “plaited.” She starts with one storyline, then switches to another, and another, eventually folding and weaving them together to create one large braid of a tale. I could have done without one or two of the storylines in this plait. Nothing specific, it just felt heavier than usual (and Rose’s books are heavy to begin with) by the end.
There’s a reason why I can’t put a Rose book down and sleep once I’ve started it. She keeps my brain ticking, trying to predict what will come next. It’s rare that I’m able to guess the outcome of a Karen Rose mystery, but I guessed a lot of this one, which was ultimately disappointing. I’d like to see Rose pare down her stories a bit, because despite disappointment in Did You Miss Me?, I’ll definitely be reading the next one.
(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)