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by Carter Wilson
Poisoned Pen Press, July 2019
416 pages
ISBN: 1492686034

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A confusing and spiraling array of events brings together two unlikely people in THE DEAD GIRL IN 2A by Carter Wilson. Jake Buchannan, a memoir writer, is on a plane to Denver to meet his mysterious client. Seated next to him in 2A is Clara Stowe, a quiet girl who writes in her journal. When their eyes happen to meet, both are struck with the realization that they know each other.

But they don't remember how. In fact, both are suffering from long-term memory loss, and meeting is pushing up memories they can't at the moment recover. Then Clara drops the ultimate bomb: she is going to Denver to kill herself. Jake tries to convince her to change her plan, but she disappears in the crowded airport at their landing.

Unable to go after her, he tries to focus on his client, but he's unsettling too. He's a creepy old man who seems to know everything about Jake, and that is only the beginning of Jake's journey. He and Clara were brought together on the plane for a reason, and Jake will fight to get his life and memories back.

THE DEAD GIRL IN 2A was surprisingly engrossing to read. At first, the switching points of view and convoluted plot made it difficult to get through. But the more I read, the more pieces started to click together, and the more I fell in love with the writing. It takes a bit to get into the groove, but as you learn more about them, it becomes easier to recognize each character's voice.

The writing is creepy in all the best ways - leaving the hair on the back of your neck standing up, warning you that there is something dangerous on the other side of the door, but you slam it open anyway. A dangerous and secretive program set up with good intentions fails in horrific ways.

Perhaps the best of it comes from the outstandingly written characters. Every character is distinctive with attributes that make each unforgettable but that also function to move the story along. The narrative would collapse without the parts played by each and every supporting character. But the two main characters are the best of the lot.

Jake is a man trying to do the best for his family, but his memory loss has become worse and threatens all of it. But when he finally has a chance of getting answers, even answers he might not like, he becomes desperate to get them. He goes through several changes in a short span of time, making decisions that you'd never expect him to make, but it all seems completely natural. The same goes for Clara. Clara is almost the opposite of Jake, quiet, soft-spoken, and a reclusive who feels death is a reward, even something she needs to do. But little things keep stopping her, pushing her on the same path as Jake to uncover her memories. Even isolated, she is still inevitably pulled into the mysteries of her past and into discovering answers before she can do what she feels she needs to do.

Connecting these two and more is a long-hidden plot that would horrify anyone if it happened in real life. But in a novel, however, morbid curiosity pulls you to keep reading. It is awful and terrible to read what comes to light and utterly fascinating to read how the hidden plot unfolds. Each character, each word, has an unsettling aspect that makes you look inside yourself and wonder who you really are, and exactly what you are capable of.

Keshena Hanson recently earned a degree in English from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and was published in the University's Sheepshead Review. Her love for mystery started with Blue's Clues, and now she reads any mystery she can get her hands on.

Reviewed by Keshena Hanson, July 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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