A review of Someone Must Die by Sharon Potts

Reviewed by Ruth Latta

Someone Must Die
by Sharon Potts
Thomas and Mercer
2016, ISBN 978 150 393 6676

Someone Must Die begins with every grandparent’s worst nightmare. Sixty-three year old Diana Lynd has taken her six year old grandson, Ethan, to a Miami church carnival, and having a wonderful but exhausting time. She lets him go into the funhouse on his own, and waits for him at the exit, but he never appears. He seems to have vanished into thin air.

Aubrey Lynd, Diana’s daughter and Ethan’s aunt, is the co-protagonist and amateur sleuth of this thriller. On hearing the devastating news, she leaves Rhode Island, where she is a Ph.D. candidate in Social Psychology, and flies to Miami to support her family in this crisis.

Following the time-honoured structure of the who-done-it, most of the characters fall under suspicion. The cast is large, and wisely, the author introduces the members one or two at a time. Kim and Kevin Lynd, Ethan’s parents, have had issues with Diana. Growing up, Kevin resented the long hours required by his mother’s career as a paediatrician, and both resent her for having missed their wedding due to illness. Lately, however, they have let her into their little boy’s life; indeed, Ethan’s visit with Diana was part of their bonding process, then went tragically wrong.

Aubrey and Kevin’s father, Larry Lynd, flies in from California with his lady friend, Star Matin, whom his children don’t know well. Larry is bitter against Diana and blames her for losing Ethan, who has visited him and Star. Star keeps popping up whenever Aubrey tries to have a conversation with her father about who in the family’s past might be a suspect. A couple named Cole hold a grudge against Diana regarding the death of their child.

Someone Must Die is presented in the third person through the hearts and minds of the two co-protagonists, Diana and Aubrey. Flashbacks to Diana’s days as an idealistic student at Columbia University in the late 1960s open up the plot to new possibilities about Ethan’s abductor. It was at Columbia that Diana met Larry Lynd, and her fiance, Jonathan Woodward, is also a Columbia graduate. Aubrey’s research into the tumultuous days of student protest against the Vietnam War turns up startling personalities and connections. She learns that Kim Lynd’s wealthy great-grandfather was one of Columbia’s trustees during the late 1960s. It also turns out that Jonathan Woodward, a potential Supreme Court Justice, has opposed the mergers of large corporations like the source of Ethan’s maternal grandparents’ wealth.

The introduction of Vietnam era issues and student radicalism elevates the novel by adding an historical dimension. Carefully selected detail; for instance, an allusion to “chalky undertaste”, a phrase from Rosemary’s Baby, make the novel ring true to the era.

Someone Must Die is suspenseful and fast-paced. The mystery of what went wrong with the Lynd marriage intrigues us throughout the novel, and relates to the kidnapping. Plot twists are what keep us on the edges of our chairs, but the characters and the human story stick in our minds. Award-winning author Sharon Potts, who is prominent in the Mystery Writers of America organization, has created rounded characters whom we will remember after we close the book. Although youthfully naive and fallible as an adult, the author presents Diana as idealistic and possessed of a moral compass. Scenes in which she is slighted and misjudged stir our sympathy for her. Aubrey’s conflicts between her family duty and her civic duty keep us reading, and in the end, when she chooses the latter, we fell that the crimes that tore the social fabric have been mended. Someone Must Die is a memorable work with a satisfying ending.

Ruth Latta’s novel, The Old Love and the New Love (Ottawa, Canada, Baico, 2012) is available at baico@bellnet.ca. For information about reviewer Ruth Latta’s writing, please visit http://ruthlattabooks.blogspot.com.