First in the Oak Knoll suspense series and the brutal serial killing slowly being revealed in this small California town.
Oooh…Hoag was a tricky devil! She just leads you around by your expectations until she smacks you over the head with the truth! I can’t wait to read Secrets to the Grave! Partly to find out what happens next, but mostly because I like her flawed hero. It’s not often we get a man with a bullet in his brain…alive…and one of the heroes of the story. He has such a lovely attitude toward life…now. I also want to see how he handles her father…!
The story begins from the perspective of the children, students at the elementary school in Oak Knoll. Setting us up. Revealing how one’s parents have an effect on how you turn out. The textbook case of a psychotic serial killer in the making. Revealing how much lies hidden under those happy façades. Providing a terrifying glimpse of what it might be like to be deaf and blind. The stereotypical portrait of an abuser.
Deeper Than the Dead is a blend of good and evil that is sometimes so twisted that you can’t help but want to step away in horror. And issue birth control right and left!
It’s Dennis’ pursuit of Tommy and Wendy that starts events off with the body’s discovery. Then Mendez’s eagerness brings in Vince Leone, an FBI profiler on leave as he recovers from a bullet to his head.
It’s all maneuvering. Vince maneuvers his way onto the investigation in spite of the suspicions of the local cops. And, oh man, does he ever maneuver his way with Anne! There’s the very careful maneuvering around Frank Farman and his domestic abuses. Abuses that spill out when he’s threatened. The exposure of a very sick boy.
Fifth graders Tommy Crane and Wendy Morgan are best friends who share a common enemy, Dennis Farman, a nasty bully of a boy who is desperate for respect and love, and his sycophant, Cody Roache.
Deputy Frank Farman is Dennis’ father and he has a very high opinion of himself and a rigid, narrow sense of what is correct. His wife Sharon probably wishes he’d loosen up. A LOT. Sheriff’s Detective Tony Mendez is an ambitious young man with a bright future. County Sheriff Cal Dixon retired from a more active career to the quiet of Oak Knoll and brings a more progressive approach to the job. He’s in an on-again/off-again relationship with Jane Thomas, one of the founders of the Oak Knoll Thomas Center for Women. Vince Leone is a high-profile profiler with the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. But that’s where the resemblance to a typical FBI agent stops.
Janet and Dr. Peter Crane are Tommy’s parents. You can’t help but hope the killer will go after the mother…what a bee-yotch! She is just plain scary. Although, there is that bit at the end that makes me wonder. Tommy adores his father and is terrified of his mother. Sara Morgan is Wendy’s mother and obsessed about the damned dog. I think it’s transference as she suspects her husband Steve of cheating on her while Wendy just wants her parents to be happy again. Renee Roache is Cody’s hardworking mother.
Anne Navarre is their fifth-grade teacher and still on school grounds when the kids find the body. Too bad, the bad guy didn’t take her dad, the now-retired, self-centered Professor Dick Navarre, out… Fran Goodsell is her best friend and biggest supporter as well as a kindergarten teacher in the same school. He’s a sweetheart and too funny for words. We all need a Fran in our lives.
Karly Vickers is one of the graduates of the Oak Knoll Thomas Center for Women and about to start her new job. Lisa Warwick used to work there. Julie Paulson was one of their failures. Gordon Sells is a pedophile who runs a junkyard.
The cover is a close-up of the ground covered in autumn leaves of reds, golds, and greens.
I haven’t a clue as to the title. My best guess is that it refers to the psychological issues from which so many of the characters suffer. Because these traumas affect people on a daily basis whereas the dead. They’re dead. Psychological problems are no longer of any moment for them. It’s for the living that the problems are deeper, Deeper Than the Dead.