Review: Her Dying Day (Mindy Carlson)

Pear Blossom Jubilee Masterson – yes, raised on a commune, isolated from the world – is an aspiring filmmaker who is sleeping with her (married) advisor. We’re off to a great start!

As it turns out, only her advisor calls her Pear Blossom, so we’re not stuck with unending litanies of that name. Everyone else calls her June. June has – for the last time – change the subject of her film. It’s going to be a film about a 20 year old cold case: the disappearance of Greer Larkin, a mystery novelist. Larkin was a hit at age 14 with her first murder mystery, and after that, was withdrawn from school, and isolated from the rest of the world. Larkin is June’s favorite writer, as they share the same general upbrringing, on their own tiny island in the sea of humanity, and because June loves the stories. June has read and reread all the books, and she participates in a forum at where she and other fans of Larkin’s endlessly speculate about what could have happened and post whatever clues they believe they have about the disappearance.

June sends out emails to Larkin’s mother Blanche (high and mighty, with money and lawyers out the wazoo), Jonathan (fiance and general scumbag), Rachel (devoted friend who wanted more than friendship) and Bethany (Larkin’s agent). When she gets replies, it’s an opportunity to see how each one thinks, and their guesses as to what happened. The women all blame Jonathan, of course, and that’s only natural. The partner is always the first and primary suspect. His motive? Money- there’s an account in the Caymans under his name with a whopping $18 million in it. But the account is frozen and Blanche doesn’t want another nickel of Larkin’s money going to him.

Rachel blames Jonathan as well, claiming he was abusive to Larkin, something he denies. Bethany blames Jonathan too, not just for Larkin’s disappearance but for the quality of her writing deteriorating, something Rachel also throws at Jonathan’s feet, claiming he controlled Larkin with booze and drugs.

June interviews them all, and casts general questions to the forum so as not to tip them off there’s a film being made about Larkin’s vanishing. June seems to be able to do better than the police did – of course, that was before the internet is what it is today – and as she gets further and further toward the answer, someone dies, and she is threatened as well unless she stops her investigation.

It’s a fun book- not for the death and disappearance and threats, of course, but for the way in which June goes about putting the pieces together, and her (sometimes) inventive ways of getting information.

Side note to publishers and/or writers who use domains in their books: go register the thing and put content on it.

The ending is a bit tropey, with the villains giving up an infodump about their why, but it is coherent, consistent reasoning, even if a little weird. There are a few instances, and one in particular where something is presented to June that could have been presented to the police back in the day to help them, and it’s odd that the character didn’t do that. Other than these things, it’s a solid, fun read.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.