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Don't Turn Around


Don't Turn Around

It is a full moon that initially draws 11-year-old Kate Summerlin into the backyard of her home in Alexander in upstate New York. Her father is a professor at nearby Seagate College, and she has quite an imagination. While looking for the perfect place to see the moon in the middle of the night, she travels beyond the confines of the family barn.

Ending up in the woods, Kate comes upon the body of Melissa Cornelle, a former student of her father. Kate is old enough to recognize that the young lady is no longer alive. She is bound in a strange position with a ribbon tied around her throat. Written in red on her stomach is the word “Merkury.” She then hears a man behind her say, “Don’t turn around.” This is what she tells the police, but it’s not the whole story.

"Harry Dolan provides many twists and turns along the way to keep readers guessing, not to mention darkness at the end of Kate’s personal labyrinth, which she had never wanted to revisit."

Eighteen years later, Kate is living in rural Ohio where she has been doing a very good job of escaping the events of that awful night, as well as the truth. It also became the impetus for her successful career as a true crime writer, in the same way that Harry Dolan uses the three words uttered by the serial killer Merkury as the title of his latest thriller, DON’T TURN AROUND.

Kate is surprised to find a familiar-looking vehicle in her driveway. It has New York plates and is driven by Alexander Police Chief Vera Landen. When Kate asks Landen how she found her, Landen drops the name of an Alexander resident whom Kate wanted to forget about: Lee Tennick, a photographer and true crime blogger.

The reason for this unexpected and lengthy excursion is not to catch up but to revisit the events of that moon-infused evening. Even though Kate claims to have tried to block it out and swears she has nothing else to add to what she already shared with the authorities, Landen insists on pushing her. Merkury seems to have reappeared in Alexander, and this time he has departed from his modus operandi and killed a young man.

After several hours, Kate sends Landen away with no further information. However, it does make her recall the conversation she had with Merkury, which consisted of far more than those three words. Kate’s literary agent, Audrey, reaches out to her; while she loved the handful of chapters that Kate had sent for her next work, she would like her to change direction as they need a hit. With Merkury returning, Audrey wants her to revisit the case and go back to Alexander, which Kate reluctantly does.

Bryan Cahill, Merkury's 12th victim, was a college student and an actor who had been filming a horror movie in the area. Kate interviews the director, as well as a few other students who were working on the project and found Bryan’s body. She also speaks at length with Tennick. Even though she does not care for the man or completely trust him, he seems to know everything there is to know about Alexander and the events surrounding the murder. Reconnecting with Landen, Kate traces Merkury’s path as a serial killer, which includes a long stretch with no activity.

It seems that the deeper Kate gets into her own investigation for this story, the more she reopens old wounds and her secret conversation with Merkury. Harry Dolan provides many twists and turns along the way to keep readers guessing, not to mention darkness at the end of Kate’s personal labyrinth, which she had never wanted to revisit.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 27, 2024

Don't Turn Around
by Harry Dolan

  • Publication Date: April 2, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802162827
  • ISBN-13: 9780802162823