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A BRILLIANT DEATH
by Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books, April 2016
256 pages
$15.95
ISBN: 1633881288


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the story of two friends in the small town of Brilliant, Ohio. The narrator (Mitch) is from a typical Midwestern family, and the other (Travis) is the son of an abusive father. As the boys move from childhood to adolescence, Travis begins to search for clues about his mother. His father, a long-haul trucker, refuses to talk about her, and rumors around town suggest that Amanda died as a young woman in a boating accident on the Ohio River.

Local gossip has it that Amanda and her lover--an unidentified man--were on the father's boat while he was out of town working. The boat collided with a coal barge, the two jumped overboard, and Amanda was never seen again, nor was her body ever found in the river.

As Travis, aided by his best friend Mitch, begins the search for the truth, all that he thought he knew slowly begins to unravel. Their surreptitious digging into the facts of what happened leads them to a convicted felon, the former detective on the case. Piece by piece this fascinating coming-of-age story of the two young boys weaves around the murder, taking them deeper and deeper into the hair-raising facts of the case.

As the story builds from the opening scene near the end of the story and circles back, readers begin to see the character parallels between Travis and his mom. Did Amanda fake her death, or was she really killed? What causes Travis to lose his grip in the opening scene? How will it all end, and, of course, what really happened to Amanda? There are plenty of clues to keep readers going until the end in this beautifully written coming-of-age tale by former investigative crime reporter Robin Yocum.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, March 2016

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