IN THE CLEARING: Robert Dugoni.
Closure is something everyone needs whether it’s a relationship that has gone south, a job that they have gotten fired from or in this case the truth behind a death. Sometimes what appears to be the cause of death or the result of a situation may look like one thing on the surface but when you scratch beneath the dust, mud, dirt, grass and dig down into the deepest layer of earth you might find the truth. A young 17-year-old girl named Kimi Kansaket is missing after working her shift at the Columbia Diner. Kimi was a senior in high school with a bright future as a track star and dated a young man named Tommy Moore. But, when she does not return home from her shift at the diner her parents became concerned and called it in to law enforcement. The year is 1976 as the author flashes back to the investigation, how it started and the fact that her body was found at the bottom of a river and according to the autopsy her death was declared a suicide. Things spiraled out of control back then and even though the investigating officer took detailed photos, detailed interviews and notes and followed procedure to the letter of the law when approaching his superiors to pursue the case and look into it more deeply he was told to back off and stick to reporting the interviews and talking to witnesses but why? The story flashes to the present and Klickitat County and the Sheriff Jenny Almond requests the help of Detective Tracy Crosswhite from Seattle, Washington to help her look into this case even though it is forty years old. Jenny’s father was the deputy Sheriff back then who investigated the case but never turned in the file. After his death and finding the file that her late father left she decided to reopen the case and bring closure to it for her father forty years later. This would be a challenge not only for Jenny but for Tracy did as she begins to research the death, bringing in her own team of forensic experts while at the same time is handling the murder of Tim Collins supposedly shot by his wife or was he? Memories flood back into Tracy’s mind about the death of her sister Sarah who was starting college too and disappeared. She became a homicide detective hoping to prevent what happened to Sarah from happening to others and bringing closure to families. Going to the White Salmon River where the body was found, getting the file and walking the area, she comes to the place where the body was found and the Clearing itself. The records are the office stated they were destroyed but with the help of Kelly Rosa and Kaylee Wright and a young man familiar with white water rafting named Peter Gabriel, Tracy is able to create a timeline of events, the way the killer actually killed Kami, and the chain of events from start to finish with the photos taken by Jenny’s father. As Tracy begins to investigate she meets with mixed reactions from many people involved. The father of Kimi is not thrilled at first to see her yet agrees to allow her to investigate. When Elon, his son meets Tracy the threats do not have to be spoken but they are, as he wants no part of what she is doing and more than states his feelings. Tommy Moore was her boyfriend and he went to the diner with a date that night just to be mean and get even with Kimi for breaking up with him. She was starting college and he was not the right person for her. So, saving for college working at the diner she appeared according to her boss, Lorraine not to be upset by his presence yet when Tracy interviews him she learns what he claims is the truth.
Added in Tracy seeks out the mental health specialist of a football start that was part of a group known at the Four Ironmen: Darren, Archie, Eric and Hastey who helped win the state championships in sports yet why didn’t Darren tell that to his wife Tiffany? Why did he shoot himself? What was in his file that has not been revealed? What about the tire tracks? Whose truck was it that ran over Kimi and then who was the person that dumped her in the river? Why? Stoneridge is about to celebrate a special sporting event with a special celebration but no one in the town is talking about Kimi or cares about what happened to her. It seems to be a town without emotion or any pity. Bringing it to the present Tim Collins murder brings up many questions as his brother Mark wants Tim’s wife Angela arrested for the murder so why did her son Connor confess to it? Why did she want to remodel the house and then sell it? With the divorce in progress what was Angela’s real motive and just what lies was she telling? DNA testing, forensics and other technologies are quite different now and what can be revealed from the past will change it all in the present.
Tracy presses the issue and after talking with Archie another suicide comes about as he tells her before taking his life: Nothing grows in the clearing but yet tried planting there in memory of Kimi and added his own ring of flowers around himself before hanging.
Sam Goldman owned and ran the Sentinel before closing it down and he is Tracy’s link to the past and the future as he has every single article ever written and some of the photos bring to light what she might need to know but not everything is crystal clear. Tracy has her own method of sorting out evidence and when she places everything in one place and rechecks it she realizes what she missed and what really happened to Kimi. A startling revelation delivered with a jam-packed slam by author Robert Dugoni in a fashion so powerful and unexpected readers won’t see it coming and neither will they when things come back to the present and who really killed Tim Collins is revealed. As Kins, Tracy’s partner uses her method of deduction and things fall into place what happens will change the life of one young boy who finds himself wondering where life will go next when the truth is revealed. Who killed Tim Collins and why? Who was so devious that they thought they would get away with it and fabricate a lie that everyone might believe? What really happened to Kimi? An ending so tragic you wonder why Darren thought that maybe after so many years something just might grow where Kimi died in the clearing where 100 years ago a man was wrongly hanged and threatened to burn it down to teach the people of this town a lesson they would never forget and in the present they might find it to be true. Secrets, lies, betrayals, threats, and a lie that some lived with for forty years for appearances sake only.
Two cases different endings and two families whose lives will change drastically as Darren’s family learns the truth about what happened that night and others will still try to cover it up. Two deaths related to one night when four young teens were supposed to be home resting for the championship game the following day. When all is said and done will Kimi’s family find closure? Will Darren’s? What about the family of Tim Collins? A case that stayed opened for forty years because one man would not give up even though his superiors would not pursue what they knew to be the truth. Could they have been guilty of the cover-up too? Tracy is a strong willed character with strong convictions and does not back down. Dating Dan keeps her centered at times and let’s hope the author lights up their relationship in the next Tracy Crosswhite novel and brings back Sam Goldman as a consultant he is a great character. Promises were made to several families which ones were kept? Eric Reynolds learns the true meaning of what really happened and the lie that he lived for forty years because someone claimed to want to protect him. How far would you go to protect someone you think you care about but do you? How many lies were spoken and who at the end comes forward to silence Tracy before the harsh realities come to light. Fast paced, vividly depicted scenes and settings and flashing back easily to both time periods allowing readers to follow along with Deputy Sheriff Almond from start to finish in the past and reconstructing it in the present to learn what really happened IN THE CLEARING.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine