After 10 years of marriage, the trouble with Charlie Harrison is he’s dead. How he died (inside his soon-to-be ex’s home) nails readers to the wall with Hitchcock-like suspense.
On her first night out as a semi-single with “the Fantastic Four” gal pals, Elle Harrison nee Brooks celebrates a bit too much. Queasy from booze --- or perhaps meeting handsome magician Joel who says all the right things --- she returns home early and fails to check in with her friends. There are reasons. She senses Charlie’s presence with a light kiss on her nape, smells his aftershave, though he no longer lives there, and finds a red rose that seems to move about the house by itself.
"THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE is a chapterless, rocket-paced read that keeps readers awake until the end. Like eating popcorn, I couldn’t stop at a scene break and kept reading until I gobbled up every word."
Monologue chatting with Charlie and spacing out cause her concern: “Charlie was, after all, my own personal hallucination.” She can’t recall unlocking doors and other things only she could do. Moreover, how did her kitchen knife find its way into her almost-divorced husband’s back? It’s strange that he should get himself killed shortly before their divorce is final. Legally married, Elle stands to inherit Charlie’s wealth.
Her Sex and the City-like gal pals, including defense attorney Susan, long have called her spacy memory gaps “pulling an Elle.” A suspect in Charlie’s murder, Elle stumbles upon another body, a woman believed to be Charlie’s lover. Elle drifts into a psychiatrically protective realm that Dr. Schroeder calls dissociative disorder: “I was, in scientific terms, nuts.” Only Susan’s friendship with homicide detective Stiles prevents Elle from being locked up in a padded cell.
Vague similarities to the Patrick Swayze film Ghost are drawn from Charlie’s ubiety and his business partner Derek, whom Elle “found too slick and more than a little slimy.” Even Charlie’s wealthy clients get pulled into the mix with plot twists that border on horrific. One of them, Somerset Bradley, enters Charlie’s condo while Elle is there getting Charlie’s burial clothes. Not knowing who he is, Elle attacks the person she assumes killed Charlie. Detective Stiles doubts Elle’s claim of self-defense with another death under dubious circumstances.
THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE is a chapterless, rocket-paced read that keeps readers awake until the end. Like eating popcorn, I couldn’t stop at a scene break and kept reading until I gobbled up every word. The author of 15 books, bestselling author Merry Jones pulls from her magic hat an “Elle-oquent” psychological thriller sure to be a Macavity or Edgar Award finalist.
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on February 15, 2013