I may have mentioned that I’m a reader as well as a writer (as yet unpublished) of mysteries. I enjoy reading my favorites over again but also relish the thought of finding an author I’ve never read before. When I find a good one, I want to share. And I do.
“And She Was” is a song written by David Byrne of The Talking Heads in 1985. It’s also the title of a very intriguing mystery authored by Alison Gaylin. Gaylin’s protagonist Brenna Spector is a rarity in human beings. She is blessed with (or suffers from) Hyperthymestic Syndrome, sometimes called perfect autobiographical memory—being able to remember any date in her lifetime and relive it, complete with all five senses.
Brenna was young when her older sister Clea went missing. She remembers everything about that day, including the fact that Clea made her promise “not to tell”. Brenna still believes in her heart that Clea is alive and owes her choice of profession to that belief, becoming a private investigator specializing in locating people who have disappeared. One such case almost ends her life.
Iris Neff is a cold case on the books of the Tarry Ridge Police Department until a woman named Carol Wentz enters a Missing Persons chat room pretending to be her mother Lydia, asking for help after all these years. One of the women in the room, having used Brenna Spector to locate a missing husband, gives Carol Brenna’s contact information. Carol is found dead with that information still in her pocket. Through a series of phone calls, Brenna ends up working for Nelson Wentz, husband of Carol and prime suspect in her death. Brenna discovers secrets both kept from each other, including Carol’s obsession with Iris Neff and her panic after a late night phone call from a young girl. The police feel they have the killer, but Brenna sees loose ends that connect to the Neff case and convinces Detective Morasco to get involved as well in her quest to find out what really happened, not only to the Wentz family but to Iris and her mother Lydia, now also missing.
Alison Gaylin is particularly adept at weaving a compelling and complex tale; ordinary people with not so ordinary secrets and an investigator who battles her own memories to keep them from getting in the way of the present. There is not one nonessential character in this tale. Everyone has a reason for being where they are, and it is intriguing to ferret out their connections to each other just as Brenna does. “And She Was” is a wonderful way to start a series. I look forward to the second installment.