When Alex Mercer follows his son into the house next door in search of their cat, he discovers the neighbor’s dead body in the bathtub and his life is suddenly and irrevocably changed. He and his family – the little tribe he has always been so comfortable with and proud of – is suddenly the subject of a police investigation. Alex believes his only hope is for the investigation to end, but as more secrets are brought to light, tensions rise and threaten to tear his family apart.
After reading In a Dark, Dark Wood, I was looking forward to another mystery thriller and A Line of Blood did not disappoint. The book starts right in to the mystery with the discovery of the body and proceeds to build suspense through the strategic revealing of evidence.
Alex, his wife Millicent, and their son Max are all suffering in different ways. They each have secrets, and fear the secrets of others. This makes their relationships grow more complicated as the novel progresses and adds a lot of drama to the narrative. Yet even with all the tension, Ben McPherson manages to balance the drama with tender, quiet moments between the family members. I found this allowed me to relate to Alex’s conflicting desires to find the truth and keep his family together and illustrated just how high the stakes are should the police investigation come to any conclusion other than that the neighbor’s death was a suicide.
While the relationships and exposing of secrets drives the plot forward, there is also lot of interesting commentary on child psychology. Alex and Millicent send Max to a therapist to ensure he is not traumatized by finding the dead body. Max continually shows himself to be an intelligent young child who takes after his parents, even in ways they’d rather he didn’t. His behaviour is both humorous – he shares his parents’ fondest for profanity – and indicative of the family’s dysfunction. Max made me simultaneously root for Alex and Millicent to get their acts together (and by “root for” I might mean frustratedly yell into the book that they need to stop lying to and hurting one another) while also believing they might be better off cutting their losses and splitting up.
As you can probably guess there are a good deal of ups and downs in this book. There are parts that make it seem like things could work out fine, other parts where that seems like the least likely thing to happen. There are sweet moments and incredibly disturbing moments. All of these aspects add up to an incredibly readable novel. Though I did have inclinations about how it would end, that did nothing to prevent me from being entertained as I made my way to the last pages.
Final verdict: A suspenseful, high stakes mystery that keeps you reading! I recommend it for its depiction of a dysfunctional family and well-paced action.