Small towns often provide the best settings for thrillers, as they are rife with secrets, suspicions, old grudges and hidden motivations. The process of watching detectives and suspects roil around in the same intimate space makes for high drama and excellent character development, as is the case in the excellent Stalker, My Love by Zack Scott.
In this cozy mystery, we see a town turn on some of its own, desperate for answers, in the search for a missing girl: Rosalyn Ray. Readers are first introduced to Rhett and Rosalyn in a strange way – during a confrontation where she basically asks Rhett to stop stalking her. This paints an immediate scene for the reader, but something about it doesn’t seem quite right. From there, the tension only grows.
Scott then takes readers through the rest of this sleepy town, where dirty deeds and lies are already beginning to pile up. Essentially, the beginning of the book is a quick glimpse into many different motives, before the crime has even been committed. When Rosalyn does disappear, the clues begin pointing in myriad directions, and the chase is on.
Rhett is certainly the main suspect, but also the most interesting character – a stalker at first glance, but his passion is bred from an entire lifetime of admiration and pining for Rosalyn. While his fascination with Rosalyn is unhealthy, it is a strange mixture of obsession and protection; he wouldn’t let anything happen to her because he truly cares about her. Readers are pulled into Rhett’s wild fantasies, where they see his true intentions, and the thoughts about Rosalyn that he holds deep inside. This is an unusual perspective to be granted, particularly in such an unusual character, and it makes for a compelling portrait of internal turmoil.
Many of the other characters are small-town tropes, but they are carefully constructed, and no detail is overlooked, making the investigation all the more difficult to predict. Mimi and Earl, as well as Elliot, are all untrustworthy in their own way, and with shifting narrative viewpoints, it is challenging to trust anyone’s account of events. Flexible narrators can be a tricky tool, but Scott does it well, which helps build suspense and perpetuate disbelief as the story begins to unravel. As the alibis fall apart and the cracks in the town begin to show, an unlikely hero will rise, but don’t expect a happy ending – nothing about this novel is what you expect.
The writing itself is sharp and smart, and the dialogue is highly believable. Many detective stories trip over their own desire for drama, but Stalker, My Love is a slow-burning bomb that understands the importance of patience. Scott takes his time in the creation of a scene, the revelation of a secret, and the depth of a character, something a more novice author may rush through purely for exposition. This book relishes the idiosyncrasies of every player, keeping readers on the hook until the last page.
Few authors can peek inside the realm of non-traditional love and extract strange beauty, charm, and excitement, but Zack Scott is one of them, making this novel a unique and electric work of suspense.
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