Being Someone Else
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
Author: J.R. Lindermuth
A lone reporter from Maryland winds up dead in the men’s room of bar noted for its poorly behave clientele. Christopher Bachman is found dead in one of the stalls by a frequent patron of Vinnie’s Bar on a really busy night. When the police question those present at the time of the murder no one comes forth or volunteers any information. No one will speak about the murder and no one will admit to knowing anything. Like a Blue Wall or code of silence.
Dan Sticks Hetrick is a retired police chief but is called in to help solve the murder and get answers from the witnesses. The list might be sparse but their information non-existent. Officer Flora Vastine is Hetrick’s old colleague and assists him along with and old friend to find and cover the hidden secrets of a town filled with people who would rather remain anonymous and unseen. No one wants to get involved nor will they volunteer any information to help the police find the murderer of this freelance reporter. Sad but true they really don’t care. Hardnosed, cold, unfeeling and distant is the way the cast of characters in this small town present themselves. As each witness is questioned the police are stymied by the lack of information and crass and cryptic answers they receive. A town with people that appear disjointed and disconnected. No one seems close to anyone. One cares about anyone. Everyone seems to have his or her own private agenda.
Phillip Donahue is a letch. Drunk while driving he comes front and center with Flora when she stops him for speeding. Married to a quiet and kind woman who runs a kennel, his actions and behavior warrant his father-in-law’s scrutiny and much more. Even caught flirting and coming on to a young woman does not seem to deter him nor does he hide his distain for his wife Hannah. His purpose in life is to pretend to be a great tennis teacher, lure his prey and then go in for the kill hoping to impress his rich doctor father in law into thinking he is trying to make it own his own.
The central place for character interaction is Vinnie’s Bar and the diner. Gossip flies and stories are told in these two places as we get to know Phillip, Vinnie, the patrons of the bar and many others. Added into the mix is Wendel Schneider a recovered drug and alcohol abuser who returns home to show his family he has changed. As the police begin the witnesses they learn that Nathan Schneider brought his family to from Maryland to this small town and the murder victim came from there too. What is the connection? That still remains to be seen. The murder victim was reporter and according to his editor did not have an official assignment leading him to this small town. Just what brought him there is unknown even to his wife. The town is Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania. The victim a freelance reporter found shot in the stall the bathroom. But, that is just the tip of the iceberg for Sticks as more bodies turn up and the count rises. There is a veil that clouds this town and the truth is somewhere behind it as Sticks, Flora and Harry delve further into the lives of many who are considered prominent in this town. Nathan Schneider is trying to shield his family and protect them from themselves you might say.
Cecil Alexander works for the Schneider family and has information he would rather not divulge about the murder victim and a member of their family. Just what that is and whether he will keep quiet will cost that member of the family dearly, Stooping to blackmail in order to pay for his ailing wife’s medical bills, Cecil is withholding information about the murder from the police. He the victim that night but has not idea why he was there and what his conversation was with one of the members of this prominent family.
A discussion with an old friend and Sticks learns of the murder of a PI that might have had a connection to the victim and also came from Maryland. This time the victim is found in the woods. Then, a young barmaid working at Vinnie’s has information about the night of the murder but is silenced by the killer before she can relate it to the police. Three murders each connected but how? Added to that the police chief planted a false story the paper with the help of the editor of the local paper in order to flush out some witnesses. What they learned from those that came forward is relatively not much other than they were looking for money and being in the limelight for a short time. How are these three murders connected and what does someone in this town want kept secret?
One barmaid is killed, a private detective is murdered, a freelance reporter is killed and all three are connected but how. One murder is premeditated, is caused by violent rage and the third because someone knew too much. One killer thought he who fooled not only his victims but was hiding in plain sight. Evidence points in many different directions and several suspects questioned but no one is able to connect all of the dots until one startling piece of information changes the complexion of the case and things fit into place.
Hannah Donahue has the shock of her life causing her to go into a state of shock as if frozen in time with fear. Cecil Alexander is shot before he can reveal what he knows and one barmaid who is silenced. A pattern is formed as everything points to Maryland where the murdered reporter came from. Secrets revealed, one family torn apart and member truths told as author J.R. Lindermuth created a plot so filled with the unexpected, the uncertain and definitely the unpredicted that this reviewer could not put the book down until she completed reading the book and was disappointed that there was not more to come.
Characters that are unique in their own right. A plot that is fast paced and keeps the reader totally transfixed to the printed page. A retired police chief who is smart, persistent, confident and definitely sharp and who does not hesitate to enlist the assistance of others. One Police Chief named Brubaker who learns the meaning of friendship, loyalty and trust. Harry and Flora who work through the evidence and assist to help bring it to a close. One young and naïve girl named Sammie, one slick guy named Phil and one family named Schneider that might never be the same. But, then no one really is who he or she seems. One of our cast of characters is a chameleon, actor and definitely Being Someone Else. Just who: Find out when you read this outstanding mystery/thriller that sets the bar way up there for books in this genre. Who knows what is next for the town of Swatara Creek? Who knows what is next for our retired police chief and his friends. But, one thing I do know is that reviewer can’t wait for the next chapter.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer