It’s a Mystery: Deeper Than the Dead, by Tami Hoag

Deeper than the Dead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An idyllic small town in southern California. The 1980’s, when America was perched on the very edge of the computer age. The peace in Oak Knoll is shattered when four fifth graders literally stumble upon a woman’s corpse half buried in the municipal park. Their teacher, Ann Navarre, is shocked, and determined to do whatever she can for the good of her pupils. Tony Menendez, the local detective who catches the case, is equally determined to catch the killer. He calls in one of only nine forensic profilers in the country, FBI agent Vince Leone, who is recovering from the side effects of a gunshot wound to his brain. (Leone and his colleagues work in an underground chamber in Quantico that is literally deeper than most burials, a source of gallows humor to the team.) It gradually becomes clear that this was the work of a serial murderer, and the process of elimination indicates that he is probably the parent of one of the four hapless fifth graders.

Author Hoag does a masterful job planting credible red herrings, and time after time, just when we think we know the identity of the monster, something else pops up to change our minds. This pattern persists right up to the book’s final crisis, and the ending is anything but neat. With respect to characterization, all the major players are fully dimensional, and we are quick to develop empathy or antipathy for each of them. Warning to the faint of heart: the murders are truly horrific – hint: super glue figures prominently. There’s enough romance to lighten the mood, which can be chilling, when necessary, but it does not detract from the core story. If you enjoy engrossing murder mysteries that are well told, you can’t go wrong with Deeper Than the Dead.


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