Dec 10 2008
Dear Ms. Mignerey,
Megan Burke thinks this day will be a good one. She’s just about to leave home for a job she enjoys, she loves where she lives and after three years there, thinks she’s fitting in nicely. Then it all goes wrong when she discovers her neighbor and best friend’s grandson dead. What’s worse is that she has a motive to kill him. Megan was sure Robby was stealing from Helen and had had a vocal confrontation with him in town. Now with no alibi, witnesses to the argument and the fact that she’s a newcomer and the victim grew up in the small town, she’s landed on the top of Detective Wade Prescott’s “person of interest” list.
Wade, a seasoned detective, moved to the small Colorado town from Chicago hoping for some peace and quiet. And a break from death. No chance of that now plus he’s got to deal with what is basically a rookie police department since there hasn’t been a murder here in years. But, jeez, even the ancient coroner should have known not to move the body before Wade arrived. And photos? Anybody think to take those? Guess not.
He’s surprised that Megan doesn’t try and duck out of admitting she didn’t like Robby, nor does she hold back on answering his questions. Turns out she’s dealt with the police before when her father was convicted of murdering her sister. Now half the town is agitating for her to be arrested and rumors are flying about her past, her present and the fact that Wade is being seen far too much in her company. But who else would have wanted Robby dead? And who knows a little too much more than they should?
The book taps into something that I think is a secret worry of many. Namely, that an innocent person will be accused of a crime they didn’t commit and because of unfortunate turns of events, unreliable eye witnesses, or lack of an alibi among other things, will have a hard time proving their innocence. Just look at all the books and movies (Hitchcock, anyone?) with this same plot. Read about how many people are sent to jail after a conviction which is later overturned by DNA evidence clearing them. Megan voices this fear when she asks Wade just how can one go about proving their innocence. That they didn’t do something?
Turns out that Megan is about the only good neighbor here. She’s the one who worried about her neighbor but all she’s gotten for her trouble is for the others to think she killed Helen’s nephew. And who aren’t the good neighbors? Oh, just about everyone else. The gossipy ones ready to condemn Megan, on flimsy evidence and rumors at best, even though they’ve lived beside her for three years.
Chief Egan doesn’t give me confidence. He’s ready to haul Megan in on little more than rumors, speaks of her as if she’s already been tried and convicted and, with a gleam in his eye, gets a warrant to turn her house inside out. And yet, he’s a small town law officer who’s suddenly confronted with the first murder there in decades who wants to prove to the townspeople, who all know him, that his department is on top of the case and can protect them. Still, I’d hate to live in his town.
Wade is the kind of person I’d want investigating a case. He’s methodical, follows the procedures put in place to protect the evidence, crime scene, witnesses and potential suspects, notices things about the people he interviews and tries not to let his personal feelings interfere with his job. When in the end he does have a hard time separating his growing love for Megan from what she’s been accused of, he makes sure another officer processes evidence against her even as he acts as her friend. I like that he doesn’t, in either way, jump to conclusions. I like that he doesn’t let the case that haunts him from his past influence how he does his job.
Megan’s faith is a powerful influence in her life. But it’s not the only thing in her life nor does she preach to anyone. I found it more realistic that she could still feel the sting of her neighbors’ feelings instead of being shown as a Pollyanna. I like that when she was feeling her worst and all alone in the world, it was her church family that quietly gathered around her in support.
Both Megan and Wade moved to this very small (3000 people) community so that they wouldn’t be lone people lost in a big city. Both seem to have enjoyed living in a place where everyone knows everyone and sees their neighbors in a daily basis. After the murder, they both realize that this place they like views them as outsiders and, in Megan’s case, is ready to condemn her almost instantly. I wonder how they’re going to live with that knowledge. Megan’s faith allows her to dismiss the accusations of the one person who should know her best. But what about the rest? I’m not sure I could endure living in a town where I knew half the population already saw me in prison orange.
“The Good Neighbor” is a relatively short book that zips along but that doesn’t mean that I felt shortchanged. Megan and Wade are both vividly drawn characters who fit solidly into the story. The police procedural aspects at least felt realistic though the “villain spilling his guts right when it was needed” ending was a disappointment. And as I said, a future here for these two would seem strained – at least for a while. But I’m glad to know that you’re still turning out quality category books. B