Title: The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
From the award-winning author of Little Pretty Things comes this gripping, unforgettable tale of a mother’s desperate search for a lost boy.
Anna Winger can know people better than they know themselves with only a glance—at their handwriting. Hired out by companies wanting to land trustworthy employees and by the lovelorn hoping to find happiness, Anna likes to keep the real-life mess of other people at arm’s length and on paper. But when she is called to use her expertise on a note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son have recently moved to, the crime gets under Anna’s skin and rips open her narrow life for all to see. To save her son—and herself—once and for all, Anna will face her every fear, her every mistake, and the past she thought she’d rewritten.
The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day is an intriguing mystery about a missing young boy.
Anna Winger is a handwriting analyst who assists federal and local law enforcement with a variety of cases. When two year old Aidan Ransey goes missing, she is asked to aid Sheriff Russ Keller with the investigation. Keller reluctantly turns documents relevant to kidnapping over to Anna but the two continue to clash over his lack of cooperation with her requests. Anna is also growing increasingly concerned over her thirteen year old son Joshua’s increasingly troubling behavior. When Joshua begins asking difficult questions that she is reluctant to answer, Anna eventually has no choice but to face the past she has been running from for over thirteen years.
Anna was forced to make a rather decision years earlier which has resulted in an itinerant, solitary lifestyle for her and Joshua. Having recently relocated to Parks, Indiana, Anna is already second guessing whether or not she made the right choice to settle in the small town. Seriously lacking the anonymity she desperately needs to feel safe, the missing person’s case attracts far more attention that she desires. She is also rather troubled by the parallels between herself and Aidan’s mom, Leila Ransey. She is already struggling to maintain her objectivity as she examines the documents associated with the disappearance when she meets Aidan’s father, Bo. Their encounters bring back unpleasant memories of her own past and Anna continues to worry about whether or not she can remain impartial during the investigation.
Adding to Anna’s discomfort is Sheriff Keller’s skepticism about the veracity of handwriting analysis. His office is on the periphery of the investigation but he continues to follow leads in an effort to locate the missing boy. A shocking murder adds another complication to the case and Keller reluctantly continues to seek assistance from Anna as they recover documents that are pertinent to the investigation. Their interactions continue to be a little adversarial as Anna offers her expert opinion on the evidence he provides for her analysis.
The pacing of the novel is somewhat slow as Anna becomes increasingly introspective during the investigation. Her self-confidence is gradually undetermined as she juggles her professional duties with the increasingly tense situation with Joshua. Completely out of her depth as she deals with her suddenly tumultuous relationship with Joshua, Anna is stunned when he takes matters into his own hands after she fails to give him the answers he desperately needs. With nowhere else to turn, Anna is forced to return to the place where her life went so tragically wrong but will she find what she is searching for?
With an unusual premise and a unique lead protagonist, The Day I Died is a compelling mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Despite the suspense surrounding Aidan’s disappearance, the storyline quickly becomes bogged down in the secrets of Anna’s past. However, the various story arcs finally come together in a rather unexpected (and far too coincidental) manner. Lori Rader-Day brings the novel to an action-filled conclusion that neatly ties up all of the loose ends.