Twenty Years Later, by Charlie Donlea

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Charlie Donlea, RB Media, and Recorded Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having stumbled upon this latest novel by Charlie Donlea, I thought that I would take the risk and hope for the best. This is a curious story that straddles two time periods and is highly impactful throughout its development. An investigative reporter returns to New York to look into some new DNA technology that has uncovered the identity of a new victim from September 11, 2001, but there is more to the story. Victoria Ford was accused of killing her lover in a brutal manner, but all that was forgotten when the Towers fell. Now, Avery Mason is keen not only to get to the bottom of the case, but also uncover truths that were left to dissipate when the world turns its attention to the terrorist attack. She is determined to find truths, even two decades later! A great story that has me wanting to find more Donlea novels in the near future.

While the events of September 11th, 2001 are etched on the minds of many, the number of unidentified remains continue to pose an issue for those tasked with bringing closure to the lives of grieving families. After new technology emerges and a fragment of Victoria Ford is identified, it’s newsworthy. Avery Mason, host of a popular television newsmagazine wants to air the discovery around the time of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack.

As Avery digs a little deeper into the life of Victoria Ford, she uncovers a goldmine. Victoria was accused of murdering her married lover by hanging him over a balcony, left to appear like a kinky sex act gone wrong. However, after her arrest, Victoria proclaimed her innocence and sent a final voicemail to her sister on the day of the attack, pleading that she was not guilty of he crime. Now, Avery has a copy of the recording and is keen to discover what actually happened and how the truth might have been buried.

Hoping to make this a smash hit for herself and the ratings, Avery contacts the former investigator in the Victoria Ford case and has him return to New York. The case seems pretty open and shut, but Avery refuses to believe it is that simple. She digs deeper and revisits much of the evidence, only to learn that nothing is quite as it seems. She’s hoping that she can blow things wide open and show that a greedy state’s attorney pushed the case along without examining the evidence properly.

While Victoria’s DNA is all over the crime scene, something does not seem right and Avery is keep to find that missing link before someone else does. All the while, she is juggling keeping her own past a secret so that she won’t have to admit hard truths that have loomed over her for years. When Avery uncovers an old and dusty manuscript, something clicks and she racing along to see if that might be the beginning of something that could exonerate Victoria Ford once and for all. This is more than ratings or stardom, it’s the honour of a woman whose life ended on September 11th, but left a family behind tarnished by the accusations. A chilling tale by Charlie Donela that has me hoping for more soon and kicking myself for not discovering his writing sooner.

I often surprise myself when i discover a new author, only to learn that they have been writing and impressing others for a long time. Such was the case with Charlie Donlea and this thriller. There is so much to enjoy with this piece, from the well-paced narrative to the great plot twists that took time to develop. I can only hope that many of his other books are as intense and I will surely find some soon, adding them to my list of must reads (rather than simply to be read).

Avery Mason is a wonderful protagonist with a great deal to offer the reader. Her backstory is both complex and ever-evolving throughout the novel, leaving the reader to see some of the struggles she faced and how she tackles them now. She does, however, not simply live in the past, but finds herself developing throughout the novel, presenting struggles both with the mysterious murder before her and the need to carve out a niche for herself in the world of television news programming. She can hold her own throughout this piece and I would love to see her in action once again, even if one-offs might be more Donlea’s style.

A great thriller uses a foundation of strong writing to begin, building on that to entice the reader throughout. Such can surely be said of this piece, as Charlie Donlea provides a stellar piece of writing here. His ideas layer together well and keep the reader on their toes as they progress throughout the piece. The mystery grows as the narrative gains momentum, allowing the plot to lead the reader down many a curious path. I cannot say enough about the ability that Donlea has to spin multiple plot lines together and keep the reader curious until it all comes together effectively. I wondered and guessed my way through this book, filled with teaser chapters that begged me to keep reading a little longer. I am quite eager to find more books by Charlie Donlea and am open to suggestions by those who have some to make!

Kudos, Mr. Donlea, for a fabulous novel. I cannot believe it took me this long to find you. I won’t wait too long before I return, of that you can be assured.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: