Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Serial Killer Blog Junkie

Richard Carter is a deputy sheriff in a rural Missouri town in Journey Man.  One day, he is called out to a cemetery where a tombstone with his name (and a death date two months in the future) has been recently erected.  While it’s apparently not a crime to put up a tombstone for someone who is still alive, the event leaves Carter unnerved.  Is this meant as a joke or is it something more sinister?

Whatever the cause, he doesn’t have long to ponder the significance, because a body is soon discovered in the woods.  The young woman is found elaborately bound, with a plastic bag over her head and a length of plastic tubing tied around her neck.  The victim isn’t from the area, so the first thing Carter and his fellow deputies must do is attempt to establish her identity.  The sheriff’s department has recently been expanded.  Joining Carter, his boss “Shug” Shively and fellow deputy Ron Guidry are Jared “JMac” McAnulty and Cicely “Kit” Kitteridge.  The two new officers apparently have hopes of eventually moving on to work with the FBI, a dream Carter has had to give up due to some events in his past.

As Carter begins to investigate the murder, he is required to be away from home for longer and longer periods.  This is particularly bad timing, as his wife Jill is going through a particularly rough time in her life.  The couple live in a cabin outside of town along with 8-year-old daughter Mirabelle, with only young neighbors Raven and Shane nearby.  Due to the area of Missouri where they live, Jill has become increasingly worried about safety during storms, so she is having a storm shelter, as well as a bedroom for Mirabelle, added onto their cabin.  As well as her worry about storms, she is also having dreams about previous events where she or her family have been in danger.  Even though the family has a large dog, she continually hears noises in the house.  She works as a community college instructor, but sometimes her anxiety is so bad that she skips her classes rather than leave the house.

When news about the murder hits the media, a woman comes forward with an unbelievable tale.  She tells Carter that she was attacked and left for dead a few years ago, and she believes the same person who attacked her also killed the young woman.  Nicole Whitmer was married to a pastor at the time, and he persuaded her not to report the attack at the time, since he feared the publicity would impact his church negatively.  Still, Carter (and other policemen) are skeptical of her story.  As Carter learns more about her and the events surrounding her situation, he begins to believe her.  But if she was also attacked by the same man, what has he been doing in the 3 years since that first crime?  Carter has an FBI friend who tells him that they are tracking a serial killer known as “Journey Man” who as a similar MO to Carter’s killer.  He’s called “Journey Man” because victims have been found across the US, meaning he’s a killer on the move.  Has he made a stop in Carter’s town?

I enjoyed reading about the very real themes that were explored in this book: male/female roles, overcoming stereotypes and working through anxiety.  It showed real situations where men in positions of authority treat male and female subordinates in the same job very differently.  It also showed how females in non-traditional roles work hard to prove themselves and how they can become overly defensive or interpret actions as being hostile when no offense was intended.  At the same time, there were some odd quirks with the book.  There were long, long, LONG conversations between characters, some job related but mostly personal, that went on and on.  For instance, when Jared McAnulty arrives, Carter is instructed to give him an overview of the job and what it entails.  They go out for coffee and he explains how “Shug” is a good boss, how to get along with him, and that drinking on the job is immediate grounds for dismissal.  A few days later, Kit Kitteridge arrives, and the boss once again asks Carter to show her the ropes.  They go out for coffee and he explains how “Shug” is a good boss, how to get along with him, and that drinking on the job is immediate grounds for dismissal.  It wasn’t really necessary to go over the same ground again! The Guidry character was supposedly a cross-word fanatic, and he was forever stopping in mid-sentence to give a long drawn-out explanation of word origins.  And he wasn’t the only one.  Jill, who, as a teacher and a mother undoubtedly wanted to educate her daughter, would respond to questions from her daughter in a word-for-word dictionary definition.  For instance, when she was cooking and the daughter asked what the word “macerate” meant, Jill responded, “To soften by steeping in liquid over a low heat.”   Also, when consulting a doctor for her physical problems, she tells the doctor she realizes “inappropriate activation of the involuntary nervous system can cause my glands to excrete excessively.” Who speaks like that?  Her poor students!


This is book 11 in a series, so there were some past events that were referred to that I was unfamiliar with.  There was a “Cast of Characters” section at the end that detailed the main characters and some events that have happened in previous books.  There was a lot going on, but the book tied up all the loose ends in a satisfying manner.  

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Journey Man in exchange for this review

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