Undoubtedly, there are many distinct differences between living in a huge city versus a small town. In the hustle and bustle of a sprawling Metropolis one can live in virtual anonymity. However, in a small town it can be nearly impossible to be so inconspicuous as everyone seems to know about one another’s private affairs. In such an environment, an individual can experience great difficulty rising above the malicious “rumor mills” which may arise. Indeed, a perceived blunder in judgment or deed can stick to a person like glue. This can not only lead to a great deal of frustration, but also to something far more sinister…such as revenge. In her novel A Sense of Wrath, author Mary White presents a virtual case study for such a scenario. For thriller lovers, and those who subscribe to the notion that “revenge is a dish best served cold,” this could be a very interesting read indeed.
The story revolves around the inhabitants of a small town. Everyone seems to know one another and there are definitely skeletons in each person’s closet. The action alternates between the past in the early 1960’s and 35 years later. In 1963, a Priest by the name of Father Joe Kelly had volunteered to drive young Mary Lippmann home. Tragically, they never made it as they had a horrific car accident in which he died. Fortunately, Mari walked away from the crash physically unharmed. Jump forward in time 35 years and we revisit with Mari who is now an FBI agent. She has been called back to her town as there have been some very unusual deaths which just do not seem to add up. Is this really murder? If so, could all the current happenings be related to the past? It increasingly looks like someone has a score to settle and it is Mari’s job to catch them before anything else takes place.
This tale has many of the elements which are needed for a classic “whodunnit” thriller. There is mystery, foreshadowing and a great deal of suspense. The small-town setting coupled with the “patient revenge” theme are engaging and quite believable for the most part. Something which does detract from the story however is the flow. Particularly at the outset of the book. There is a lot of writing space devoted to character description and background knowledge. Obviously, this is done to engage the readers with the characters. It is slowly revealed that many of the players in the book have their own unique issues and could easily be the villain. However, in a novella of this length there really is not time for such detailed description. This can all be embedded within the story and occur right from the start. This way the reader’s attention is grabbed right from the beginning and will not subside until the last page is read.
Without a doubt, there are many interesting characters in this novella. They are described and developed quite well. The reader is able to get a sense of their present personality as well as the background which led them to what they have become. Mari is developed in the most detail and certainly undergoes a significant character transformation throughout the tale. Early in the book she is portrayed as a happy go lucky teenage girl. However, 35 years later she has unmistakably become a no-nonsense FBI Agent. As a reader I did prefer it when the personalities and motivations of the various characters came out seamlessly, and as part of the story, rather than in a formulaic manner.
Overall, I thought this was a good mystery/thriller with some technical issues. The ideas and story-line were engaging and able to keep the reader invested when the action actually started to take place. I would recommend this novella to adult fans of mysteries and thrillers.
3 out of 5 Vengeful Stars for this one!