The dead do not dream --- they live on in the living, and that is all. This sentiment, recounted in the Epilogue of Perri O'Shaughnessy's 13th installment in her Nina O'Reilly series, proves to be quite prophetic. DREAMS OF THE DEAD is a well-paced and cleverly plotted novel that finds attorney Nina O'Reilly caught up in a case that may have literally awakened the dead.
"When two women connected to the ski resort are viciously murdered, Nina and her colleagues begin to believe that Jim may have returned from the grave..."
And not just any dead person, but Jim Strong --- a former client of Nina's who turned out to be a sociopathic killer and was ultimately responsible for the murder of her husband. The memory of those events and the threat posed by him continue to haunt her dreams. But what happens to her in this book brings her worst nightmares into waking reality.
Nina agrees to represent Jim's father, Phillip, the owner of a local ski resort. Phillip is looking to sell the resort, a victim of low profits due to the shrinking economy and disposable income of the fading tourist trade. The only problem is, someone claiming to be his late son may be attempting to halt it. If Jim is indeed alive, then he would be entitled to share in the profits from the sale. Nina cannot fathom how this could be happening since only two people alive (or so she thinks) know for sure that Jim is dead. Besides herself, her friend and ex-lover, private investigator Paul van Wagoner, personally dispatched of Jim and buried his body in an unmarked grave.
When two women connected to the ski resort are viciously murdered, Nina and her colleagues begin to believe that Jim may have returned from the grave as these murders bear a resemblance to his past handiwork. Nina has much more to fear than the complications of a ski resort sale, as she now must consider herself and all those close to her to be in danger by whoever is carrying out these vengeful acts connected to the Strong family.
As with any family business, there are entanglements that would prevent the sale of a business to go smoothly even under normal circumstances. Phillip must deflect his own family members who work with him from laying claim to the ski resort, in addition to the mysterious legal notes coming from Brazil under the moniker of "Jim Strong." Nina and Paul begin to dig into the murders at the resort, and are shocked by what they discover (and don't discover).
The Prologue features a nameless individual taking a small sailboat out to Lake Tahoe and dumping a similarly unnamed body into the heart of the Lake. Who is the mystery person committing this criminal act, and what could the motivation be? The opening lines read: "The dreams of the dead are unimportant to the living." This dovetails nicely with the quote found in the Epilogue. It is in between these two sections that readers will find themselves firmly engrossed in a novel where nothing is as it seems. Perri O'Shaughnessy (the pen name for sisters Pamela and Mary O'Shaughnessy) has created a legal thriller that plays out much more as a finely plotted murder mystery where the surprises spring up when you least expect it.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 12, 2011