Book of the Day

Love You to Death by Caroline Mitchell / Review by Laura Stewart Schmidt

Love You to Death

By Caroline Mitchell

Bookouture
$10.99
ISBN 978-1786810854
Published 11/13/2016

 

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Killer Nashville Reader’s Choice Award

Love You to Death

Killer Nashville review by Laura Stewart Schmidt

The past refuses to stay buried for DI Ruby Preston as her latest case threatens to expose her darkest secret. Love You to Death by Caroline Mitchell (Bookouture) is the story of a serial killer whose victims share a common experience—each gave up a child for adoption years before. The killer pretends to be seeking a fairy-tale relationship with the mother who relinquished her, but clearly, she wants revenge for what she perceives as abandonment.

Opening with a prologue that introduces us to a victim in danger seems contrived, but there’s a purpose beyond engaging the reader’s curiosity, and Mitchell doesn’t dwell in the scene. She soon switches us to meet our heroine, Ruby, and her staff of law enforcement officers, as they process the mangled body of the prologue victim’s husband. They realize that the serial killer, “Lucy,” is not only kidnapping and torturing possible “mothers,” but destroying the women’s existing families to eliminate the competition.

The reader learns Ruby and her childhood sweetheart, Nathan, the son of a famous crime family, had a daughter named Lucy twenty years ago and gave her up for adoption. Ruby has kept this detail of her life private, fearing not only the loss of her job but retribution from Nathan’s vicious brother and mother. She suspects the serial killer is her daughter and thus feels responsible for the carnage. “Surely it could not be the Lucy she knew. Not after all these years. Or could it?”

As the narrative goes to Lucy’s viewpoint, we see her victims inexplicably opening their homes to a stranger who arrives on the doorstep claiming to be the daughter they relinquished twenty years earlier. This naïve trustfulness may stretch the suspension of disbelief. However, it’s an emotional situation, and most readers will understand that a gut response from the “mother” in this case might be different from ordinary or expected behavior. The victims pay dearly for their innocence. As each “mother” fails to pass Lucy’s test, stakes rise for Ruby and her staff.

The author has put together a tricky and intriguing mystery populated by interesting characters. Ruby and Nathan are both likable—together more so than apart. The book contains a dearth of plausible suspects, and the author drops enough red herrings to make the reader dismiss each. There is enough guessing to fool most readers, and even if you deduce part of the outcome, you probably won’t figure out every step. Love You to Death is reminiscent of Minette Walters’ dark thrillers, but with the promise that we might see more of Ruby and Nathan in future novels. As for their daughter…who knows?

Laura Stewart Schmidt: A lifelong reader and writer, inspired as a child by Harriet the Spy and Emily of New Moon. She minored in criminal justice in the hope that it would make her a more effective and knowledgeable mystery writer. Her Young Adult novel, Sweeter Than Life, was published by Martin Sisters Publishing in 2015. She has spent several years working as a community education coordinator, encouraging parents to read to their preschoolers and starting reading clubs for middle-school students. She also worked as a family court advocate for at-risk youth and parents suffering from substance addiction.  Laura is also a member of Sisters in Crime and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.