There is a lot of death in The Death of Life by Pamela Crane. Most of it involves child abduction and human trafficking; this serves as a trigger warning for those overly sensitive to the topic. I am one of those, but the captivating writing from the first few pages kept me reading. The author does not use unneeded sexual or violent language; most readers will not be offended. With this topic, most of the horror will be a result of the reader’s imagination prompted by the author’s talent. I don’t usually compare authors with each other but as I was reading this I thought frequently that I was reading something by Willow Rose, also one of my favorite authors. Pamela Crane has become my latest favorite author.
The thirty-seven chapters of this 258-page novel have chapter titles which are the names of characters, the POV for that chapter. About ten of the chapters have no title, they are from the point of view of the killer. I didn’t guess the identity of the killer until almost the end. Crane gives us many distractors and false paths to follow on our way to the conclusion. The readers are not the only one following false paths, hero and protagonist Ari Wilburn is fooled several times as she pursues her unofficial investigation. She should not be investigating; she is a file clerk in the Durham, North Carolina Police Department.
But she does not want to be a file clerk. She is taking courses so that she can form her own private investigations firm. Her job as a file clerk is to get tips on investigative and interrogation tips. Her purpose in life, her passion, is to find the killer of her younger sister, Carli. It is not a spoiler to note that she also works at the department during the daytime to be close to Tristan, a “real” detective. She is close to him at night outside the department.
Ari has a dark and convoluted past. Her mom and dad are both alive, but she doesn’t have a good relationship with them. They put her in a foster home after Carli’s death saying that they couldn’t put up with the existence of Ari which only served to remind them of Carli. Readers can dwell on the stereotypes of life in a foster home. If that isn’t dark enough, early in the novel we get hints that Carli was killed as a warning to Burt Wilburn, Ari’s father. Burt had connections to a known child trafficker, George Battan. Burt would sometimes make introductions that allowed Battan to recruit children. Wilburn, it seemed, wanted to get out of the relationship and Battan was signaling displeasure with Burt by killing Carli. Ari, working to become a private investigator, knew or had hints about her father’s dark past. Ari knew why her sister had died. Battan was in prison because of Ari’s work with a former Battan victim, Tina. Ari had discovered Tina in a support group and the eighteen-year-old lived with Ari while the two tried to find Tina’s child, Giana, who had been taken from Tina at birth and sold by Battan. Tina could testify against Battan about another missing girl, Marla, who Tina had seen while living in captivity with Battan. But Tina would not testify until Giana was found. Battan hinted that he would tell Tina where Giana was in return for Tina not testifying.
Tina has the key to the prosecution of Battan. Tina is living with Ari who in turn is living with Detective Tristan. Marla is still missing. Ari wants to find Marla, find Giana, and find out the truth about her father’s past and Carli’s death. And this is just the novel’s set up.
Then the murders start. What murders? As far as the reader knows, none of the characters above are murdered. True, Marla is missing but she is an unknown at this point. Nope, there are still a bunch of characters to come, several of whom will be killed. This is not a novel so full of characters a reader will get bored. This is fast-paced, well-constructed, and a page-turner. It is too interesting to put down and my Kindle says it takes five hours to read. Find five hours and read this all in one sitting. I gave this novel five Amazon stars, much like I give to Willow Rose novels, and I look forward to reading many more Pamela Crane novels. This novel is available through Kindle Unlimited