Title: One of Us by Tawni O’Dell
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the New York Times bestselling author of Back Roads comes a fast-paced literary thriller about a forensic psychologist forced to face his own demons after discovering his small hometown terrorized by a serial killer.
Dr. Sheridan Doyle—a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist—is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago.
Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners’ deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny—in pursuit of a killer—comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.
In this masterfully told psychological thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, the past and present collide to put Lost Creek’s long-lived ghosts to bed.
Set in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania, Tawni O’Dell’s One of Us is a riveting and complex psychological thriller. This spellbinding story has a richly drawn cast of colorful characters, a very intriguing mystery and a compelling storyline.
Dr. Sheridan “Danny” Doyle might have escaped his small home town of Lost Creek but the memories of his youth still haunt him. The legacy of his childhood is not one that can be easily forgotten (his mother’s battle with mental illness and subsequent conviction for killing her baby girl) or forgiven (the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father). The bright spots in his dysfunctional past are the relationships he enjoys with his maternal grandfather, Tommy, and local police officer Rafe Malloy. After learning that his now ninety-six year old grandfather has recently been seriously ill, Danny returns to Lost Creek, where he is immediately caught up in events that lead to some startling revelations about long ago events.
One of Us is written in first person and alternates between two very different points of view. Both narrators have escaped Lost Creek but each have returned at around the same time, but for very different reasons. It is also interesting to note that they come from completely diverse socio-economic backgrounds but they both have deep roots in the local community and their families lives are inexplicably linked through the local mine.
Danny’s family has worked in the Dawes’ coal mine since his ancestors immigrated from Ireland and until Danny, they were unable to escape their hardscrabble life as coal miners. Danny’s success is hard won and his fascination with the human mind has resulted in a very successful career as a forensic psychologist. He delves deep into the psyche of serial killers but interestingly enough, Danny’s expertise is lost on himself as he continues to battle the demons of his past.
Lost Creek is bleak and poverty stricken, but it is the perfect setting for the somewhat dark atmosphere of the unfolding story. The townspeople are hardworking but fighting to make ends meet. It is a town where families are deeply entrenched in a class struggle of sorts with the wealthy Dawes’ family and the memory of the long ago hangings of their descendants are never forgotten.
One of Us unfolds slowly but steadily and the seemingly unrelated storylines gradually combine into a dramatic and shocking climax. It is a somber story but brief snatches of humor lighten the tone. Tawni O’Dell masterfully combines the past and present into an incredibly fascinating mystery that is sure to be a hit with fans of the crime solving genre.