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by K. J. Erickson
St Martin's Minotaur, July 2004
272 pages
ISBN: 031231471X

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Marshall (Mahrs) Bahr and his partner Nettie Frisch have moved to the Minnesota State Cold Case squad from the Minneapolis Police Department. Mahrs is bored because none of the cases seem to make any difference. Nettie, however, is developing a database involving abductions from convenience stores at night when the employee is alone. It is hoped that this will help prevent future abductions.

One of the abductions is especially strange because a body was never found. This took place in 1984 in Redstone, Minnesota. Mahrs sets out for Redstone to find out what happened. And we are taken back to 1984 and meet Chief of Police Sigvald Sampson. We follow his investigation of the abduction of Andrea Bergstad, 17 years old that year. He checked out every possible suspect and finally decided she must have been murdered and the body was well-hidden.

Bahr and Sampson meet and go over the case and from there on, Bahr is determined to find what happened. There is a new look at all the evidence and some new information turns up. The reader follows breathlessly as danger enters the story and there are implications perhaps on the highest levels of U.S. security. Will justice ever be possible?

The characters are the first thing I enjoy about Erickson's books. She makes them so believable, so likable, and yet so realistic. None is perfect, each has faults and errs, but most all would like to see good things happen. The villain, perhaps, is as purely villainous as it is possible to be and we will shed no tears over him. Mahrs' relationship with his son is delightful and there is a new member of the family, a dog who plays a crucial role at the end of the book. Sampson is as well drawn as Bahr, a wonderful character with whom we can empathize.

The plotting is well done. I knew there were surprises for me somewhere; I had no idea where. The cover, which is excellent, evokes the loneliness of the convenience shop out on the highway far from any other stores or restaurants. The situation got my attention and Erickson handled it very well. The flashback to what happened in the past was done well and made the events much more understandable.

ALONE AT NIGHT is firmly set in Minneapolis and small-town Minnesota. The reader gets to experience what the Twin Cities are like and then the small town of Redstone where everyone has their own idea of what happened to Andrea. Andrea's parents are perhaps typical of Minnesota farmers: inarticulate, unable to express emotions, shamed by having lost most of their farm and unwilling to let their neighbors know how bad it really was. Her mother is somewhat of a religious fanatic. But we still empathize with them because they are real.

Because of our liking of the characters we follow the story avidly. We want Mahrs to succeed and we rejoice with each new revelation and we cringe with each mistake he makes. I thought this was an engrossing book and I simply could not put it down. It really involves the reader emotionally in the story.

Reviewed by Sally Fellows, July 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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