My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Mirror Pond Murders is the second book in the ‘Northwest Murder Mysteries’ and was published by Ted Haynes in 2019. I enjoyed the first book, Suspects, last year and said yes when offered an opportunity to read this follow-up in the series. While there are elements of suspense and thrills, the book falls under the classic mystery genre, offering deep insight into the characters and a grave look at the past. Let’s chat a bit about the story.
A skeleton is dug up in the Mirror Pond in former Native American territory in Oregon. Based on an agreement with the tribe, the state must make every effort to properly address remains that might belong to them. An autopsy is performed, citing potential Cherokee or Asian heritage; not enough is left behind to be sure. However, they do know a few things about the victim, and when Sarah Chatham, an attorney handling the case, hears those facts, she’s stunned. It’s her long-lost sister, and Sarah wants answers.
Haynes has a simple but direct storytelling style. The POV and perspective of this book changes by chapter to cover several key characters, including the local police, the representative of a local tribe, a few involved lawyers, and a couple of others who I will leave out for now (no spoilers). While several of these characters continue from the first book, we find unexpected connections in the stories that provide a fantastic surprise and “ah-ha” moment. I am really fond of the way the author connected the two books, as it’s not obvious at first. I remembered some of the names and the key plot elements, but I’d forgotten a few of the details that were important to this case. Luckily, Haynes does a superb job at covering the past info without it feeling repetitive or unnecessary.
While the book touches on Native American culture, it’s primary focus is on a spiritual religion that was popular in the 1980s in Oregon. See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajnees…. I was unfamiliar with the history of Rajneesh but glad to learn more about it. Haynes takes some of the facts from these events and uses them as a backdrop to his murder mystery. When he connects the death of Sarah’s sister to this cult and to someone else we’ve met before, it becomes quite a spiderweb. One of my favorite things about the book is how methodical Haynes’s characters are; the 2 or 3 primary ones searching for Sarah are lawyers, so they are required to do certain things in order to ensure they can convict someone of the crime. Haynes makes it easy to follow but intriguing.
Another cool aspect of this story is a sub-plot revolving around a main character’s wife, who we met in the prior book, and her disinterest in conversing with the not-so-nice father who abandoned her years ago. He’s got a connection to the main story, which makes everything fit together nicely. Haynes has a clear and consistent writing style. A few times, a new chapter starts off with some time having passed. I wanted to know more about how he got from A to B, but that’s just my reading style and preference. It was certainly an opening shocker when he revealed something out of the blue, but it drew me further into the book too. On a few other occasions, I felt a slight distance between the characters and me as a reader. It might be an effect of the author’s writing style for lawyers processing a case, but I would have liked a bit more emotional connection in those few instances. For example, Sarah is obviously hurt over the loss of her sister and something else that happens, but she handles it too stoically for me. I understand who she was as a character and why Haynes probably took that approach, but at the same time, a bit more would’ve endeared her to me at the right level.
All that said, the mystery is strong. The tone is even and procedural in a good way. There are several surprises I hadn’t expected. I really loved the way the two books were connected. I’m definitely interested to read more from the author in this series or anything else he starts. It’s a different kind of read in some ways, but also a very easy one to digest and understand. Kudos for a solid follow-up that I believe was stronger than his debut in this series.
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For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.