Thursday, July 2, 2015
Somebody I Used to Know
by David Bell
New American Library 2015
432 pages Mystery
Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive! (Sir Walter Scott)
These words kept coursing through my brain while I was reading Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell, which is a taut, roller coaster ride of a novel. Written in the first person, the protagonist, Nick, is a mild-mannered social worker in an Ohio community—the same Ohio community where he went to college. For 20 years, he has mourned the loss of a first love, Marissa, who died in a fire in a student apartment house. Suddenly, one day, he sees someone who looks very much like her at the grocery store. When he tries to speak to the girl, she runs away, and later is found dead in a motel room with Nick's address and phone number in her pocket. As Nick and a police officer friend probe the girl's death, they are led into a web of lies and deception, until, at last, the truth comes out and Nick finds closure.
Bell's novel is taut and moves rapidly—one of those books you can't put down until you figure out what happened, although the obsessive mystery reader can see the clues as they are presented and as Nick chases them down. Much of the mystery has to do with the mistakes young adults make. I couldn't help but think about the concept of consequence, and how it is the last thing to develop in the human brain. However, in the case of this novel, some of the consequence comes from adults trying to protect their children.
I am not a big fan of "lost love", especially of love lost for twenty years, but I willingly suspended my disbelief for the sake of the novel. It's not that Nick is a wimp, but please Nick—move on! Of course, if he had moved on, he never would have solved the mysteries, and I wouldn't have spent hours lost in his story.
I can recommend Somebody I Used to Know as a great summer read. David Bell is a university professor as well as a prolific author. He has several other novels that are probably worth looking into.
David Bell website.