In this debut suspense novel by Nathan Ripley, a man named Martin Reese is obsessed with murder. After selling his tech company for a pretty penny, Reese has the wherewithal to spend his time away from home, secretly digging up missing bodies of murder victims, snapping photos of the remains, and informing the police, anonymously, of his finds. He is able to do this by purchasing police files on unsolved cases from a washed-up cop. He is driven to do this because he is searching for the remains of his wife’s sister, a woman who, presumably, was the first victim of a man named Jason Shurn, decades prior.
But on his latest digging expedition, Reese finds a newly-buried corpse beside an old one. Reese is now hunted by both a detective who isn’t happy with his taunts of shoddy police work, and a killer who isn’t happy about Reese’s hobby.
It’s an odd premise but that’s why I picked this one up. The story seemed like a different kind of suspense. Reese is a devoted family man, and, alongside the reader’s knowledge of his strange obsession, this makes for an interesting portrait. He must compartmentalize to be able to go on his solo “camping trips” while maintaining a solid relationship with his wife and daughter. We see enough of his concerns as a protective father to commiserate with the character, but he maintains a high creep factor, given the details of his behavior from his college years, when he met his future wife. His dialogue with his family tended to bog down the story’s momentum at times, but overall it was a solid read.