Merrimon Book Reviews

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Dahlia's Gone
An Ozarks Novel
Dahlias Gone
by Katie Estill
Poetic and melancholic mystery/suspense. Sad but awesome!

Publisher: St. Martin's Press (January 2007)
Katie Estill's Dahlia's Gone tells the story of three women in a small Ozark town whose separate lives are joined by murder. Not a typical cozy mystery nor a typical suspense thriller in which all ends are tied up in a nice bow, Dahlia's Gone stands out as a poetic work of fiction, melancholic in voice, that looks at the lives of women through an almost spiritual eye. Dahlia's Gone will appeal to readers craving something a little different from strict genre formulas, readers who love multiple genres, and readers who want to put reading preconceptions aside and enter the imagination of a book and to be led into new ways of seeing.

Norah Everston asks her neighbor Sand Williams to watch in on her two teenage children while she and her husband finally take some time out for themselves and a vacation. Sand agreed without thinking about it even though she had no particular connection to Norah and did not even like her that much. When an intense rainstorm threatens to wash out the bridge, Sand feels guilty for neglecting her promise. She checks on Norah's children only to find Dahlia murdered, her blood drained from the washed body and the mentally disabled son distraught. Unaware and almost detached from his sister's death, Timothy can only pray in a kind of franticness. Sand feels that in one moment of distraction, her word to Norah begins to create unforeseen bonds and complications. Norah now blames her for the horrible disruption to her family and fears the shunning of her fundamentalist church more than anything. Deputy Patti Callahan, the first officer on the scene, discovers that this case will alter her life in unforeseen ways.

Dahlia's Gone tells the story of how Dahlia's death reverberates in the lives of three women. Dahlia's death separates them from the past, and from others. Sand sees the world as if separated by a camera lens. Dahlia's death alienates Norah from family and church, the two things that have been her foundation and protection from the past. When everything is taken away from her, will Norah crash and burn or will she rise to the challenge? When everything is gone and she can no longer protect herself, will she self destruct or find a richer kind of comfort and spirituality born from sorrow? A sudden shocking revelation tears through the fabric of their lives, not once but twice as the mystery behind Dahlia's murder finally finds resolution. Out of the depths of sadness, can friendship and maybe hope be born?

Dahlia's Gone captivates with its sometimes eerie, poetic and melancholic narrative voice. Visual imagery is a key to this novel, allowing the reader to feel the character's separation and sadness. The river and water imagery permeates the landscape, building up a view of the deep emotional undercurrents, tinged with a poetic spirituality connecting the characters in this Ozark town.

Dahlia's Gone is an unusual mystery-suspense read --- and one I adore! Dahlia's Gone has a certain spiritual vision that emerges from the lives of its characters and the author's vision. It is not traditional nor religious. In fact, Dahlia's Gone shows some of the unhealthy extremism in dogmatic black/white religion. And yet, it has a spiritual vision of hope, of friendship, of poetic and spiritual beauty in the midst of something horrific and characters who experience separation from "normal" life.

Let me warn you. This is NOT a cozy mystery. This book is sad, and thought-provoking, a kind of mesmerizing soul read, a woman's poetry read in a mystery/suspense book. Quite unusual! If you want a light read to relax or a clever mystery/suspense puzzle with all clues tied up in a bow, or if you think of life or religion in black and white absolutes, this is not the kind of book to choose. If you crave an awesome poetic, melancholic suspense, something truly different, Dahlia's Gone is a great choice.

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews

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