Synopsis from Goodreads: When Cormac O’Malley–Dogwood, Ohio’s former bad boy and a man just released from prison–returns and shows up on her doorstep, librarian Eloise Carmichael hires him as a handyman despite warnings and misgivings. After a body is found at the library, Eloise becomes obsessed with the mysteries surrounding a murder that took place fifteen years ago. But as the body count rises and family secrets are brought to light, Eloise and Cormac realize the only hope for redemption–and love–lies in each other.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Emma Elliot’s A Thin, Dark Line is a triple threat with a dark mystery, a character driven plot, and a sweet romance that delivers on all levels. Everyone has a past but Cormac O’Malley’s includes fifteen years in prison for murder. Eloise Carmichael’s past included a privileged upbringing in a cold an unloving environment but no murder. To say the least both Cormac and Eloise are not what their parents expected them to be.
Cormac has never denied his guilt and now that he has served his time he has returned to his hometown to care for his ailing and aging grandfather. Unfortunately for Cormac it is his grandfather and perhaps two other people who are happy about his return. Unfortunately for everyone else, Cormac doesn’t care; he has unfinished business that needs attending to and he will see it through before leaving town for good. What Cormac so doesn’t count on is Eloise Carmichael coming into to his life.
Eloise, affectionately known as El to her friends, is a refreshingly real character who always, no matter the consequences stays true to herself and her beliefs. Oh, and she has a habit of speaking her mind often before her internal edit button has a chance to engage. Like Cormac, El is her family’s black sheep despite being well-educated and successful in her career. The morning Cormac re-enters El’s life is the same morning she decides her life is in a rut and she needs a full-time handyman for the library she runs.
From the beginning, everyone except El, questions both El’s sanity and her decision to hire Cormac as the library’s handyman. Why the hell shouldn’t she hire him? He has the necessary skill set, he proves reliable immediately, and he has paid his debt to society. True to her nature, El rabidly and frequently defends her decision and Cormac to anyone who cares to question her. El often also finds herself reminding everyone that the past is just that, the past. Or is it? When the first dead body falls out of the library’s attic on top of El the past suddenly begins to rear its ugly head and every finger in town is pointing toward Cormac as the most obvious suspect. On yet another unfortunate note, the first dead body is just the first dead body. Before long the body count starts piling up and the past and the present are on a collision course with one another.
Here’s what I like:
*The mystery: It’s no secret I love backstories so Elliot’s mystery which involves both the past and the present totally satisfied my need for a thriller mixed with a long-buried dirty little secret. The backstory brings everything together and ties up all the little loose ends that have been, like the dead bodies, piling up throughout the novel.
*El’s relationship with, well, everyone! You may not like El and her attitude but she is a real and authentic character whom the author never allows to deviate from her strong personality. El’s honesty, loyalty, and ability to trust despite all the damning evidence right in front of her makes her all the better. El trusts her gut and knows, without doubt that her faith hasn’t been misplaced.
*The Flow: A Thin, Dark Line moves so smoothly from start to finish you don’t even realize how much you have read. While the mystery is a mystery, it isn’t overly complicated or drawn out to the point of absurdity. The plot moves like it means it without being at all rushed and the mystery unravels logically if somewhat tragically. Once the past and present meet there is no stopping the inevitable and all of the players come together for an excellent finish.
*The Epilogue: this is the second time this year I find myself giving an author some major props for rocking the epilogue. As it should be, everything is tied up in the epilogue and the resolution of each character’s story is quite satisfying. El and Cormac’s budding romance is finally able to blossom, all of the dirty little secrets and the truth have been exposed which allows everyone, but in particular Cormac, to move forward.