The best book I read this month was so good that I was late to work one day so I could finish it. That book is A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum.
As you might guess from the title, the book is a mystery. It revolves around a disappearance in 1953 and an apparent suicide in 1971. The story—told by the best friend of the young man who apparently died in 1971—recounts the story of that friendship and the friends’ quest to find out what happened in 1953, when the mother of one of the boys disappeared. The big town rumor is that she died by misadventure, but a few folks in town suspect otherwise—either escape to a better life or murder.
The voice and sense of place in the book is exceptional. It’s set in the real-life small town of Brilliant, Ohio, located across the Ohio River from West Virginia and about an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh, PA, and it’s a town that Yocum clearly knows well. His characters are just as well-drawn, although the main villain does seem a bit over the top at times.
The one part of the book that didn’t work for me was the prologue. I think it was completely unnecessary and a distraction from what the book was really about. I found out later that A Brilliant Death is part of a trilogy—each book centering on one of three cousins. (One of the cousins narrates this book.) The prologue explains the cousins’ family history. If you’re planning to read the whole trilogy (I’m not), the prologue is useful. But if, like me, you’re only reading this one book—skip it.