It’s Mid-19th century America on the verge of Civil War…
Concord, Massachusetts is rocked again by a third murder of a female member of the Chase family.
Eight years after the drowning of wild child Mary by her own father Henry Chase, and five years after his wife Sarah was discovered in a pool of blood with her throat slit, youngest daughter Edie is found poisoned in a hotel on a rare visit to the town
where she was raised.
The shock discovery is made by retired local doctor, Josiah Bartlett, a man who reveals as large an appetite for detective work as for the irresistible cooking of his daughter Hannah.
Bartlett, warned constantly by the town Sheriff not to stick his nose into lawmen’s work, is suspicious when he first encounters Edie after so many years – what is the real motive in her seeking him out?
Suddenly, the elderly Doctor – now a grandfather following the marriage of Hannah and Sheriff Keyes – finds himself drawn magnetically into another murder mystery involving the same ill-starred family.
It is a tragedy that seems to have no end.
After all, he had secured the confession from Henry Chase that he had indeed murdered his eldest daughter – and battered another Concord resident to death.
But the killer had miraculously bust out of jail and was able to continue his psychotic spree, butchering his wife before being shot and disappearing into the Merrimack River.
Now-grown-up Edie arrives back in Concord, begging the Doctor help save her brother Timothy who has joined a gang.
And instead of the Henry Chase case looking all wrapped up, the assumptions start to unravel in deadly fashion.
Deadly Assumptions shows Daniel Bjork’s amateur sleuth finds himself back to square one against a demonic force that will stop at nothing.
Daniel Bjork wrote an interesting book in such a way I still can’t decide how I feel about it. It is the first that has actually left me vastly confused as to where I sit on the emotional spectrum when I try to decide whether I liked or hated it. I like his writing style as he has a no nonsense approach to scene and character description but with its own sense of beauty in the details. The story starts off quite rapidly and the pace doesn’t let up so I found myself flipping through pages faster than one would think given the dialogue and plot set-up.
Bjork seems to have captured the speech patterns used in the mid-19th century which took some getting used to as it doesn’t flow the same way 21st century does. There feels something ‘off’ about their conversations but I don’t think it’s Bjork writing style so much as how things were said and done back then. Of course the story being set in the time period it is means having to read language that is definitively racist towards African-Americans and bigoted towards those in the South and the Irish. One of his characters, not one of the nicer ones, does leave the reader with a colorful tirade of bigotry towards Jews for almost a page so that was fun to read. Unfortunately the Irish characters were also reduced to nothing but trashy prostitutes, corruptible cops and murderous gang members more stereotypes my people seem to be endured to fight forever as our better examples get continually glossed over. It is again not something you can hold against the author as we cannot forget the past or wash its sins away lest we repeat it in the future or the present as the case may be.
I thought it was fun the way Bjork brought in the classic authors like Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau to play characters, confidantes to his main character Dr. Josiah Bartlett. Of course it would be rude to have all these gentlemen pretentiously brought in and not include such famous places as Walden’s Pond and Sleepy Hollow which showed up at the very beginning along with Mulberry Street and Five Points later in the story. Considering the author is a history professor he must be forgiven for trying to cram as much of US History as possible into one fictional book and it does make it a bit of fun to play a Where’s Waldo like game with who, what place or what event will pop up next.
The book is written in first person from the perspective of Dr. Josiah Bartlett but then in Chapter 4 it switches to the first person perspective of a second character. The problem I had was that because Dr. Bartlett had already been narrating the first 3 chapters I got very confused for a bit with how Ch 4 was going because none of it made sense in the context of what we had learned about Bartlett in those previous chapter. Finally a few clues told me this was a completely different character. The same thing happened with Chapter 7 when suddenly a 3rd character began narrating in the 1st person. I didn’t know who this new one was until a conversation with some other characters came up and one of them mentioned her name when they were talking to her so I could figure out what was going on.
The transition between narrating characters didn’t feel as smooth and I wished the author had either titled the chapters to give the reader a clue as to what he was doing so you knew which chapters were being narrated by which character, didn’t use the 1st person at all or only used it with one character. I assume, based on how chapter 3 ended and how chapter 6 ended, the author believed he was providing segue clues so we as the reader would figure it out. In both instances the narrating character made mention of someone they were thinking of and pondering what had happened to them. Then in the next chapter you get it from the very character that had just been on the thoughts of the previous narrating character so it was their turn to fill in some blanks. Honestly I think I just confused myself some more trying to explain how I finally figured out multiple characters were talking from the 1st person. At this rate I wouldn’t be half surprised if the book turned out to be about one character with a multi-personality disorder. Eventually the transitions make more sense because you can recognize by what they’re doing which character it is.
Although the story moved at an extremely fast paced so you never got hung up bored anywhere there was also something frantic about it, the plot line didn’t feel quite believable. I decided to google more about the book and author and discovered this specific title is actually the 3rd in a series which wasn’t explained in the description I received. Then it made more sense because with that understanding it very much reads like the conclusion to a trilogy. If you read the first 2 then you will probably enjoy this a lot more because you will have had the full arch of these characters, their backgrounds and their stories so it will probably feel like a fulfilling end to a long drama whereas for me I just feel lost and unsure.
Another thing that caused me a bit of a problem is that in the description it stated, “… against a demonic force that will stop at nothing”and having read that phrase I assumed there would be some kind of supernatural aspect to this book but it was just old fashioned bad guy wants to be a criminal and his crimes weren’t even that bad on the scale of things that have been done to people. I wish they hadn’t described the book that way.
My recommendation would be to read the first two then this and don’t take my negative impressions too much to heart as they are the opinion of someone who did not know until I was done that I had only gotten a 1/3 of the story and the last 1/3 at that.
Thank you to Netgalley and Endeavor Press for allowing me to review this book.
Buy at Amazon: http://a.co/0cNkus1
*synopsis and pic from amazon.com