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The Burying Place by Brian Freeman
Review by Don Metzler
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312562748
Date: 13 April 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The man tightened a metal wire around the woman's neck. She struggled, but faintly, her limbs twitching. When the man saw Kasey, he jerked the woman's body in front of him as a shield. All that was visible was one of his dark eyes, shining brightly.

Kasey extended her gun. Her cold, tired arms trembled. "Let her go."

They faced each other across twenty feet of mist and darkness. Kasey knew she barely had a shot.

"Let her go now," Kasey repeated. "Run if you want."

The noose strangled the woman, choking off her air. Her near-dead eyes bulged.

Behind the mask, the man taunted her. "You won't do it," he said.

Kasey took the shot.

Off-duty Duluth police officer Kasey Kennedy had become hopelessly lost on her drive home in a dense Minnesota fog, when she stumbles into the middle of a horrific crime, and interrupts a serial killer at work. In the end, Kasey is unable to save the life of this woman, who becomes the fourth victim of a brutal murderer.

During the same fog-bound night, an eleven-month-old baby disappears from the upscale rural home of a prominent surgeon. Detectives Jonathan Stride and Serena Dial, who have been called in to assist with the abduction case, are confronted with a crime scene that is devoid of clues – no fingerprints, no sign of forced entry, no unlocked windows or doors. It is as if the baby has vanished into thin air. Because of the dangerous fog, the child’s mother had been spending the night in a hotel in the city, and the father was home alone with his daughter. When interviewed by police, he seems curiously lacking in any emotion with regard to little Callie’s disappearance.

Seventy miles away in Duluth, Stride’s partner, Detective Maggie Bei, heads up the hunt for the serial killer, but that investigation is proving to be as frustrating as the search for the missing baby. The murderer’s first three victims had simply disappeared. No bodies have yet been found. And there exists an embarrassing dearth of leads in the case; that is, until Kasey Kennedy’s home is broken into, and a message is left scrawled in garish red lipstick on the bathroom mirror: “BAD GIRL.” The killer is now stalking the very police officer who nearly prevented his most recent murder. Will Kasey become bait in an attempt to track down and corner this killer?

The Burying Place is Brian Freeman’s fifth novel featuring detectives Jonathan Stride and Serena Dial. Freeman possesses a goodly number of strengths as a writer. First and foremost is his ability to provide us with characters who are strongly depicted, though not always because they are strong people. Freeman’s characters, whether it be Stride and Dial, Maggie Bei, Kasey Kennedy, or a host of others who appear in the narrative, are all people who have in some way been psychologically wounded. They are characters who jump off the page as real-life people, with real-life heartbreaks and tragedies. Perhaps not so different from you and me, they are human beings who seem to be always looking for ways to hide their scars and their pain.

Freeman maintains a pacing in the narrative that at no time leaves the reader wishing he could skip ahead. The story itself moves briskly enough; there is no need to hasten it.

The vivid descriptions of Minnesota locations keep the reader grounded in real places and real time.

Freeman is able to combine two apparently separate mystery/thriller storylines, while at the same time he manages to interweave all of the poignant personal dramas from the lives of the various characters.

And with all of that, Freeman is still able to surprise the reader with unexpected twists of plot during the last few chapters. If by Chapter Fifteen you believe that you already know what the outcome of The Burying Place will be, by about Chapter Fifty you will have begun to realize that your assumptions were all wrong – you had absolutely no clue where this story was headed, what secrets have been buried. Nothing about these crimes is as simple as it first appears to be. And this sense of belated discovery on the part of the reader is one of the hallmarks of a truly great mystery novel.

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