This is a novel I read about a year ago and I loved it – so why has it taken me so long to put this review to paper? That’s a great question, and the nearest I can come to an answer is to say that I just didn’t feel like I could do it justice. This is terrific crime novel featuring a current case and two cold cases but it is also so much more… Some readers will appreciate the trip down memory lane to the eighties, the clothes and music, it brings it back. Other readers might be anticipating the resolutions of the three main cases. But for me – well – I have to admit I just love the way the author nailed “the nature of memory” It doesn’t hurt to have a likable (though flawed) protagonist with a sense of humour that is pointed, yet considerate of the difficult subject material.
This is fiction although it was loosely based on a true crime that happened in another year.
In this imagined account of the summer of 1986, Oklahoma City is rocked by two tragedies. A botched burglary at a local movie theater ends with the murder of six young employees, and a few months later a young teenager disappears at a local fair. Neither crime is solved.
Wyatt was sixteen that summer and inexplicably he was the only survivor at the theater massacre. It changed him forever: he moved away, changed his name and never looked back.
Julianna is the sister of the missing teenager. Unlike Wyatt, she stayed in Oklahoma where she obsessively tried to unravel the mystery of her missing sibling. The evening her sister disappeared has never left her mind.
It is 26 years later in 2012 and Wyatt is a private investigator in Las Vegas. A friend asks him to take a case in Omaha (as a favour— double pay) and Wyatt grudgingly accepts. Oops! What the friend meant to say was Oklahoma, and soon Wyatt finds himself heading back to a place he has avoided for 26 years. And he starts to remember things about that summer. This is where the author is brilliant at showing how the five senses trigger memory – and this is a guy who doesn’t want to remember. As soon as he sees the city skyline his stomach clenches. The scent after the rain, the taste of the food, the sounds unique to this city; they generate the memories of that summer and he is soon asking himself why was I the only survivor?
But memories can be fickle companions and Julianne is not having much luck remembering the night her sister vanished. Until…
This is a tremendous story that is well told and meaningful. A true gem – and there must be folks who agree with me because it has won a few awards ( among them an Edgar.)
The Long and Far Away Gone, 2015, HarperCollins, 454 pages