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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Impulse by Frederick Ramsey

Frank Smith is a reasonably successful mystery writer, thanks to a TV series based on one of his novels, but that was a few years ago. As we meet him, we learn he is about to attend his fiftieth high-school reunion, the first time he has attended any of his reunions.

The boarding school he attended has bittersweet memories. His brother, a victim of bullying while also attending, had committed suicide and several of those that were responsible for the name calling would be there. Perhaps enough time had passed to see his way past their mean-spirited game playing by now. The school also had a tragedy when four students from that same year went missing, never to be seen again. Plus his daughter lived back east in Baltimore and he could visit with her and not contend with the rigors of the reunion if it was too much for him.

He was leaving Phoenix with a heavy-heart because he was becoming too familiar with mystery investigations. A local detective was investigating Frank in the disappearance, and supposed murder, of his wife, who disappeared on an evening stroll about four years ago.

Now this novel fits in with a rediscovered mystery genre, that of the old codger being the protagonist. One could easily imagine Andy Griffith in the starring role here. It is pleasant writing, with plenty of thought provocation, foreshadowing, and red-herrings. Of course Frank is challenged to do what the cops had not been able to do, deduce what happened to the boys that went missing fifty years ago. With his now-widowed childhood sweetheart helping—much to the horror of his daughter—Frank puts the pieces together on the missing boys, his geriatric love life, and finally faces what has happened to his wife.

The plot gradually edges along as bits and pieces fall into place culminating in a sobbing confession to finally make sense of mystery so long in the making.

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