Richard Montanari has long been among my favourite crime writers. In his Byrne and Balzano series, set in Philadelphia, two strikingly different and very likeable cops spark off each other. But he also pens standalone thrillers, and his latest, The Buried Girl, is darkly gothic in tone.
When New York forensic psychologist Will Hardy’s wife is murdered, he relocates with his teenage daughter, Detta, to Godwin Hall, a run-down mansion in Abbeville—quintessentially small-town Ohio—where he hopes to rebuild their shattered lives as he renovates the property.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Ivy Holgrave investigates the death of a local girl, convinced she is the latest victim in a long line of murders dating back decades.
Three parallel strands run through this novel: a historical narrative, told through the nineteenth century journal of Eva Larssen, a servant at the orchard farmhouse nearby; Will and Detta Hardys’ own harrowing story; and as for Chief Holgrave—she has a deeply personal reason to pursue the unexplained disappearances.
A compelling theme in Richard Montanari’s novels is the inner strength of damaged individuals, and the power of goodness over evil. He explores both to marvellous effect in The Buried Girl, touching on religion and destiny, piety, and obsession. The atmospherically described rural setting is by turns idyllic and menacing; he switches with masterful ease from urgent and spare, to lyrical prose, but never descends into the snobbishly ‘literary’. Montanari’s writing is tense and immediate, and he has an enviable facility for using simple language to evoke complex emotions. His wide knowledge of film and art is woven deftly into this story, and the relationship between the doctor and his emotionally scarred daughter is authentic and deeply moving. I devoured it—all the time regretting the pace of my reading—because it brought me to the end all too soon.
Sphere, (2019), £10.26 ISBN-10: 0751563854 Buy it on AmazonUK
SPLINTER IN THE BLOOD, penned as Ashley Dyer, is now available in all formats and it’s in the Kindle Spring Sale until 22nd April.