The Dead Season
Shana Merchant #2
By Tessa Wegert
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Senior Investigator Shana Merchant has spent years running from her past. But she never imagined a murder case would drive her to the most dangerous place of all–home.
After leaving the NYPD following her abduction by serial killer Blake Bram, Shana Merchant hoped for a fresh start in the Thousand Islands of Upstate New York. Her former tormentor has other plans. Shana and Bram share more than just a hometown, and he won’t let her forget it. When the decades-old skeleton of Shana’s estranged uncle is uncovered, Bram issues a challenge: Return home to Vermont and solve the cold case, or the blood he spills next will be on her hands.
As Shana interviews members of her family and the community, mining for secrets that could help her solve her uncle’s murder, she begins to realize how little she remembers of her childhood. And when Bram grows impatient and kidnaps again, leaving a trail of clues Shana alone can understand, she knows his new victim will only survive if she wins the psychopath’s twisted game. In order to solve one mystery, Shana must wade into her murky past to unravel another. (from Goodreads)
This is the second mystery in the intense Shana Merchant series; it is written with excellence. The descriptions of where Shana grew up in Swanton, Vermont and her new home in the Thousand Islands of New York are rich, adding color and texture to late November days. It was fascinating to get to know Shana, Mac, and Tim better than in the first novel, and spend time with Shana’s family and friends in Vermont. The mystery was exciting at times, and shocking at others. This series should definitely be read in order, as each novel builds on the one prior.
Shana has been on suspension following her first major case in Alexandria Bay. Tim is her second in command at the A-Bay state police station. Due to reactions to circumstances encountered, she had to see a state appointed therapist, and in a few days will be evaluated to see if she is ready to return to duty. Her parents call her with bad news; her uncle Brett, husband to her mom’s sister Felicia and had left her and moved to Philadelphia twenty years earlier, had been found. Well, his remains were, due to an anonymous tip called in to the Swanton police. They made a tentative identification and determined he had been murdered. Shana drove home to be with her parents, as there had once been many rocky times with Felicia, Brett, and their children.
Shana was barely at her parents’ home when she learned that a nine-year-old boy went missing from Heart Island where his school had been on an outing. Even though she is on suspension, Shana returned to A-Bay to see if she could help from the sidelines. The clues there send her back to Vermont. A nightmare from her past has returned yet again, a living nightmare that will not let her go. It will only be in finding the truth of her uncle’s murder that they might be able to save the little boy who disappeared. Yet the secret she may have to expose would harm all she loves and forever cost her career.
I enjoyed seeing Shana again, despite walking through some of the horrors of her past that effect her present and future. She is very well characterized, especially through the haunting memories. The family dynamics, especially with her aunt and cousin, add to the drama. Each relevant character is designed carefully and defined well. I also enjoyed getting to know Mac and Tim better than before; Tim has proven to be a much better person and investigator than originally thought. I enjoyed meeting Shana’s best friend from school and seeing them pick up their relationship again, as well as Shana’s regrets for her shortcomings in the relationships of her past.
The mystery is complex and involves much more than the missing boy or her murdered uncle. Shana will learn just how much she can trust Mac and Tim, and ultimately herself as she works through the effects of PTSD and takes her karate classes more seriously than ever. While Shana assumes who is behind the boy’s disappearance, the suspects for her uncle’s murder increase as she learns more about his final months in Swanton. The suspense climbs with each plot twist and turn so that it is hard to put the book down! I admit that I was not able to guess who the murderer was and was stunned at the resolution! The end is satisfactory, leaving open only one thing – the location of the Blake Bram, the man who not only abducted and tormented Shana when she was with NYPD over a year ago but plays into her cases since. The novels should be read in order as they build on each other. I highly recommend The Dead Season and its predecessor, Death in the Family.