If you skip over DISTURBED by Kevin O'Brien, you are cheating yourself. Some folks never buy/read original paperbacks for whatever reason; others are tired of serial killer/slasher novels. If you fall into one of these categories, The Kid is here to tell you that DISTURBED is a book you want to read. Far be it from me to tell you how to spend your time, but O'Brien really lays the goods down here.
Someone compared the book to a mash-up of Silence of the Lambs and "Desperate Housewives," and that's not an inaccurate description of what goes down in this long but lightning-fast read. O'Brien likes to set a lot of plates spinning, plot-wise, and this tale of sex, violence, scheming and infidelity has just about everything you could possibly want. The main mystery concerns a series of murders that are taking place in a suburban subdivision near Seattle. Someone is visiting families who live on cul-de-sacs and slaughtering the lot of them. The killer, whoever it is, has the habit of taking the "no outlet" signs on the street as trophies of his visit, as well as doing some other things that we cannot mention on a family website. There is also the murder/robbery of a high school counselor who was forced to resign in disgrace after he was caught in what appeared to be a compromising position with a student. News of the occurrence was blasted all over the Internet social networks.
None of that, however, compares to the domestic drama that occurs over backyard property lines in the area. The focus is on Jeff and Molly Dennehy, who have been married for about a year. Molly, a former hotel desk clerk who is now doing fairly well as an aspiring artist, stepped into a real offal storm when she married Jeff, a successful pharmaceutical salesman. Jeff had previously been married to Angela, who had left him due to his multiple infidelities he had committed while on business trips. Angela continues to live in the area, while Jeff and Molly share the home that he and Angela used to occupy. Oh, and did I neglect to mention Jeff's children, teenaged Chris and young Erin, who also live with him and Molly? Or that all of Angela's friends continue to live in the area as well and regard Molly with all the good feelings that one would feel toward a cockroach in the pantry?
Actually, O'Brien could have crafted a pretty decent drama based on all of these swirling scenarios without spilling a drop of blood. But spill he does, creating a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat, particularly if you (as do I) live on a cul-de-sac. O'Brien, at irregular intervals, drops live hand grenades, large and small, into the narrative and amongst the carnage that one expects when someone with unresolved anger issues passes through the neighborhood. Molly is a saint, trying to adjust to a blended family while dealing with her husband's ex-wife and all of her catty friends. What Molly doesn't know, though, is that she and her family are last on the list for an extremely clever and motivated murderer who will stop at nothing to accomplish a twisted mission.
DISTURBED is full of surprises, twists and turns. O'Brien is a master at jerking the reader's intellectual and emotional chains, so that just when one thinks that everything is resolved, something else is carefully and strategically tossed into the mix. Oh, and don't get too attached to anyone here. O'Brien is still killing folks off even as DISTURBED ends. Still, once you start the book, you won't be able to read it fast enough.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 2, 2011