Her Dying Day
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
After changing the topic for her final class project several times, 24-year-old filmmaking student June Masterton has decided to make a true crime documentary based on the her favorite author, Greer Larkin, who vanished twenty years ago, in a mystery to rival that of Agatha Christie’s disappearance.
Greer’s debut novel, written at the tender age of 14, was such an overnight success that her mother Blanche subsequently started home schooling her so she could concentrate on her writing. Greer went on to write several more bestsellers before her disappearance ten years later when her car with her purse and traces of her blood was found at a lighthouse near where she had dinner and argued with her fiancé Jonathan Vanderpoole. As neither Greer not her body were found, the police were never able to establish if she committed suicide or whether someone killed her and threw her over the cliff.
With five weeks left to make her film, June set about contacting all those involved in Greer’s life to organize interviews for her film including her fiancé Jonathan, her mother Blanche, her best friend Rachel and her agent Bethany. And what a cast of unlikeable characters they turn out to be! Jonathan has long been considered by many to be the main suspect for Greer’s disappearance, especially when it was revealed that millions of Greer’s money had been systematically filtered into an account in his name, but the police were never able to find enough evidence to charge him. Blanche certainly believed he killed her, but she has never liked him and always suspected his motives in chasing Greer. Greer’s agent Bethany claimed he was controlling and had caused her writing to suffer while Rachel, obsessed with Greer and jealous of Jonathan, claimed he physically abused Greer.
In addition to her interviews, June tries to get hold of the original police reports and through her membership of an online fan forum dedicated to Greer, seeks out further information and theories. A suitcase of Greer’s writing given to her by Rachel also gives her clues. However, as June starts to close in on the truth, she receives threats to stop her investigation and starts to fear that she is in danger.
Woven through the plot is June’s own story. Christened Pear Blossom Jubilee by her hippie parents, she grew up in a small commune in the Adirondacks, home schooled and isolated from the outside world until she left to go to college. As a child reading was an escape for her and Greer became one of her favorite writers, reading and rereading her books so many times that she could quote passages from them. June’s upbringing has made her selfish and immature, with few friends and poor taste in men. She is sleeping with her married course advisor, who has no intention of leaving his wife and treats her very shabbily. In many ways there are similarities between June’s and Greer’s lives – both had sheltered, isolated childhoods and are vulnerable and naïve about men. While the background about June’s upbringing might have seemed unnecessary and secondary to the main plot, a revelation towards the end of the novel, suggests it may be leading into a future sequel.
There is plenty to enjoy in this gripping debut novel. The mystery of the author’s disappearance is intriguing and builds up gradually with each interview, intensifying as June’s investigation progresses and culminating in a suspenseful climax. There are plenty of clues to keep readers guessing as the plot twists one way and another until the pieces in this complex puzzle start to fall into place. Although there are some lose ends and unresolved questions remaining at the end, this is an enjoyable read with a pleasing resolution.
With thanks to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for a copy to read.