Book Review: One Of Us

18775231Dr. Sheridan Doyle, a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist, is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago.

Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners’ deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny, in pursuit of a killer, comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.

ashley | Years ago, I read Tawni O’Dell’s Back Roads and loved it. This was before I was avidly reading anything I could get my hands on and didn’t have a lot of experience with this type of book. You know, books where adolescence isn’t a picture perfect memory and there’s a dark cloud following closely overhead. It was my introduction into these coming of age stories and it really had a huge impact on me and my taste in literature. So obviously, when I saw that O’Dell had a new book on the horizon, I immediately snapped up and advance copy of One Of Us with the hopes of a similar reaction.

One Of Us is a very hard book. The characters have had it rough, they have a tough exterior, they are unpleasantly arrogant, something they’ve picked up as a defense over the years that has morphed into their standard personality. I had a real love-hate relationship with everything from the start. I really disliked the characters, but to have such an unsettled reaction made me love the writing and love the characters by extension.

This is yet another story about returning home to a small coal mining town and uncovering a tomb of family secrets. A simple story structure that I enjoy, but the pieces in this story start to make themselves pretty clear early on and instead of anticipating where I’m being led, I found that I was just waiting for the book to catch up.

The story sees the historic legend about a band of rebels who were hung on the gallows years ago come back to haunt this little town as people start ending up dead and the truth about the past starts to come out in the open. There are a lot of murders over the years – a mother killing her daughter, a man killing a bunch of young boys, a nanny setting herself on fire, the aforementioned rebels who many believe were unjustly hung – and they all kind of flow into the present with the appearance of new dead bodies.

This was a new experience for me. I don’t think I have ever read a book with characters I never really warmed up to but still cared deeply about what happened to them. Even though I could see where things were going and didn’t think some of these people deserved a break, I couldn’t put this down.

The twisted dynamic between Danny Doyle and Scarlet Dawes fascinated me. Scarlet fascinated me; she did not give a single care about anyone other than herself. Her coldness made me hate her, I don’t relate to her in the least, but I was mesmerized by her.

As for Danny, coming from a small town and making a life in the city myself, I understand his superior attitude towards his home town, but he just had this level of arrogance that kept me from fully respecting him. Like I said, I get that the arrogance is a defense mechanism against all the bullying he endured growing up, but it just created a barrier between us that I couldn’t get past. I admired how he handled himself in this situation, however. His ability to psychoanalyze others and not lose his cool in these heavy situations is not something I’d be able to do.

How things wrap up isn’t at all surprising, but it’s still kind of satisfying and the psychological side of each character and how they all intertwine is pretty interesting. O’Dell has a very raw way of telling stories that I love. These characters are all very flawed and honest, but truthfully, I’m glad I’m not one of them.

One of Us is available August 19.