Monday, March 9, 2015

Robert Dugoni Presents My Sister's Grave" - a Story of Tragedy, Love...and Closure...

Sarah Lynne Crosswhite
The Kid
"That's all done too."
"Then I'll just write you a check."
"It's all good, Tracy."
"Darren, please, I can't ask that of you."
"You didn't ask it of me." He smiled, but it had a sad quality to it. "I'm not going to take your money, Tracy. You and your family, you've been through enough."
"I don't know what to say. I appreciate this. I really do."
"I know you do. We all lost Sarah that day. Things were never the same around here. It was like she belonged to the whole town. I guess we all did back then."
Tracy had heard others say similar things--that Cedar Grove hadn't died when Christian Mattioli had closed the mine and much of the population had moved away. Cedar Grove had died the day Sarah disappeared. After Sarah, people no longer left their front doors unlocked or let their kids roam freely on foot and bicycle. After Sarah, they did not let their children walk to school or wait for the bus unaccompanied by an adult. After Sarah, people weren't so friendly or welcoming to strangers.
"He's still in jail?"
"Yeah, he's still in jail."
"I hope he rots there."
Tracy considered her watch. Darren stood. "You ready?"
She wasn't, but she nodded anyway. He led her into the adjoining chapel, the rows of chairs empty. The room had been unable to accommodate the crowd for her father's wake. A crucifix hung on the front wall. Below it, on a marble pedestal, was a goldplated container the fize of a jewelry box. Tracy stepped closer and read the engraving on the plate.
"I hope it's okay," Darren said. "That's how we all remember her, the kid following you all over town." Tracy wiped a tear away with a tissue. "I'm glad you're going to be able to put Sarah to rest and put this behind you" Darren continued. "I'm glad for all of us."

My Sister's Grave

By Robert Dugoni

The suspense and the ending of this phenomenal book is crazy good! Readers will be hooked, as I was, all the way through the book, wondering..."who?" There's lots of clues, of course, but nothing that really sinks in as a hint for us to pursue... I did it anyway--along with Tracy Crosswhite, who, decades later, was just now able to conduct the investigation into her sister's disappearance and assumed death...

Tracy had been devastated when her sister disappeared. They had been very close and routinely competed in various gun shows... They had just finished at the latest one when the two sisters split up that night. Tracy was heading out with her boyfriend, who Sarah knew was going to ask Tracy to marry him that night. Tracy did not like the idea of her driving home alone, but Sarah had insisted. She had never seen Sarah again...

The entire family was infected with guilt since her parents had been away on vacation...and things declined from then on. Now both her parents were gone and Tracy was a homicide detective with the Violent Crime Section in Seattle and had worked to clear many murder cases...but never her sister's. Even though they had arrested somebody, they had never found Sarah's body...

Calloway pointed a finger at her like he'd done when
she was a kid riding her bike on the sidewalk. "You'll
stay out of the way. If I tell you to leave, you will leave.
Do we understand one another?"
Tracy was in no position to tell him she'd investigated
more murders in a year than he'd investigated his
entire career. "We do."


Kins, one of her team members, came and told her that a body had been found in the hills above Cedar Grove...

As flashbacks begin...for everyone involved, readers quickly learn of what happened the day Sarah had disappeared.

For now, Tracy was heading to Cedar Grove to see for herself! But Chief Calloway, Sheriff, was not willing to have her involved, especially when she had no jurisdiction...

I'm not here as a police officer," she said. "But I'd appreciate a professional courtesy."
"Can't do it."
"Roy, you know I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the integrity of a crime scene."
Calloway shook his head. "You're not going to get that chance."
The others looked on, uncertainly etched on their faces.
"Then I'm asking you for a a friend of my father's."

A foot had been found and later a a shallow  grave, surprising not disturbed by animals.

Tracy said, "We searched that area twice and did not find any body. Whoever put the body there had to have done so after we'd searched and just before the flood."

Tracy immediately remembered the intensive search that had occurred...Why wasn't the body found at that time? That night, Tracy had a dream of time with Sarah...

 Tracy turned off the bathroom light and stepped into her bedroom wearing her red fleece pajamas. A towel turban entwined her hair. She sand along to Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton's version of "We've Got Tonight," which played on her boom box as she leaned across the bench seat and considered the night sky out her bay window. A magnificent full moon cast the weeping willow in a pale blue light. Its long braids hung motionless, as if the tree had fallen into a deep sleep. Fall was slipping quietly into winter and the weatherman had predicted the nighttime temperature would dip below freezing. To Tracy's disappointment, however, the sky sparkled with stars. Cedar Grove Grammar School shut down for the first winter snow and Tracy had a test on fractions in the morning. She was less than fully prepared.
She hit the "stoop" button on the boom box, cutting off Sheena but continuing to sing. Then she clicked off her desk lamp. Moonbeams spilled across her down comforter and throw rug, disappearing again when she switched on the lamp...if her grades slipped, her father wouldn't take her to the regional shooting tournament at the end of November.
She continued singing the lyrics to "We've Got Tonight" as she pulled back the comforter.
Tracy screamed and stumbled backward, nearly falling over.
"Oh my God! Oh my God!" Sarah had popped out from beneath the covers like she'd been spring-loaded, and now lay on her back laughing so hard she could barely catch her breath to speak the words.
"You are such a brat!" Tracy yelled...
Sarah leaped onto the bed and climbed over her, scurrying under the covers. Settled, she asked, "What was it like?"
Tracy looked down from her book. Sarah lay staring up at the ceiling. "What was what like?"
"Kissing Jack Frates."
"Go to sleep."
"I' don't think I'll ever kiss a boy...."
Sarah bit at a fingernail. "Could we still see each other every day?"
Tracy lifted her arm. Sarah slid closer. "Of course we will. You're my favorite sister, even if you are a brat..."
Tracy...reached overhead for the power switch to her lamp. "Okay, close your eyes."
Sarah did so.
"Now take a deep breath and let it out." When Sarah exhaled, Tracy said, "Ready?"
"I am not..."
"I am not...," Sarah repeated.
"I am not afraid..."
"I am not afraid..."
"I am not afraid of the dark," they said in unison, and Tracy clicked off the night.

The Coroner, Rosa, pointed out to Tracy that she didn't work for Chief Calloway and had no problem telling Tracy what she had discovered during her autopsy. It was enough for both of them to make some firm conclusions. It was then that Rosa agreed to testify if necessary, and suggested to Tracy that she get Sarah's remains safely into her selected funeral home...

And it was at the funeral, finally, that Tracy was fortunate to meet one of her old friends from Cedar Grove. Dan O'Leary has sat down beside Tracy where she sat alone in the first row in front of the funeral plot. It was there that the former bond between the two was reborn and Dan stood by her as she began her own investigation...

Including going with her, and then, becoming, the lawyer of the man who had been in jail for 20 years, charged with Sarah's murder...

But there was now sufficient evidence that the evidence used to convict him had been "fixed..."

Tracy had been shut out of most of what had been done during the time they originally had investigated Sarah's death. But Tracy had never believed that there wasn't something wrong that was happening. Even if the man who had been convicted had earlier been in jail for rape, that didn't explain why the evidence didn't match what the early record showed.

Tracy was determined to now discover the truth... no matter what or who could be hurt...

Obviously I loved Tracy's character--her love for her sister, her parents, but her love for the truth and justice even more. It seemed the entire town was not willing to go through everything again, even if Sarah's death had itself changed the town itself...

Dugoni hits us right where it hurts--into the guilt we take upon ourselves when something happens to loved ones, no matter whether the guilt is really ours to bear... He takes us into the decisions related to right and wrong, not only to look at and evaluate...but to find and perhaps wallow, and slowly sink into that miry mess that's been created by each decision that was chosen and implemented.

It forces each of us to wonder, "What would we have done?" Dugoni forces us to not just watch life roll by, but get in there and discover what to do about it. In my mind, this is a must-read for many reasons...

Mainly because it's one of the best novels I've ever read...Yep, it has to be added to my 2015 Favorites! Highly recommended!


A writer turned lawyer turned writer. Robert Dugoni was born in Idaho and raised in Northern California the middle child of a family of ten siblings. Dugoni jokes that he didn't get much of a chance to talk, so he wrote. By the seventh grade he knew he wanted to be a writer. 

Dugoni wrote his way to Stanford University, receiving writing awards along the way, and majored in communications/journalism and creative writing while working as a reporter for the Stanford Daily. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and worked briefly as a reporter in the Metro Office and the San Gabriel Valley Office of the Los Angeles Times.

Dugoni attended the UCLA law school and practiced law for 13 years in San Francisco. His longing to return to writing never wavered, however, and in 1999 he awoke one morning and made the decision to quit law and write novels. On the 4-year anniversary of his wedding day, keeping a promise to his wife, he drove a u-haul trailer across the Oregon-Washington border and settled in Seattle to pursue his dreams.

For the next three years, Dugoni worked daily in an 8 foot by 8 foot windowless office in Pioneer Square to complete three novels, winning the 1999 and 2000 Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference Literary Contests.

Dugoni's first novel, The Jury Master, followed and became a New York Times bestseller. Deadly Pleasures mystery magazine chose The Jury Master as one of three "Best of the Best" debut novels of 2006 and the Seattle Times likened Dugoni to a young John Grisham, calling The Jury Master, "A riveting tale of murder, skullduggery and treachery at the highest level."

Dugoni's second novel, Damage Control, reached number 8 on several national independent bookseller's lists. Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal called Damage Control "a page turner" with "a fast moving plot and a few twists that will surprise even seasoned thriller readers."

Wrongful Death, Dugoni's second novel featuring Dugoni's popular protagonist, David Sloan, received critical acclaim. Kirkus called it, "An entertaining thriller about a hotshot lawyer with good guys to like, villains to hiss, and windmills to attack.." And Booklist wrote, "Mixing the suspense of a Grisham legal thriller with the political angle of a Baldacci. Dugoni is knocking on the A-list thriller door."

June 2010, Dugoni released his third in the David Sloane series, Bodily Harm, which Library Journal chose as one of the top five thrillers of 2010. The Providence Rhode Island Journal wrote that Bodily Harm branded Dugoni as "The undisputed king of the Legal Thriller."

Dugoni's fourth in the series, Murder One, was released June 2011 and hailed as a cross between Presumed Innocent and Basic Instinct. Publisher's Weekly called it "the best yet in the series" and Library Journal again chose it as one of the top five thrillers of 2011. The Miami Examiner wrote, "Dugoni should be cloned." It was a finalist for the prestigious Harper Lee Award given by the University of Alabama School of Law and American Bar Association.

The Conviction, the fifth in the David Sloane series will be released June 2012 and again hailed. The Associated Press wrote, "The names John Grisham and Scott Turow are mentioned when discussing the legal thriller genre. Robert Dugoni is as good, if not better." TheProvidence Rhode Island Journal agreed. "The Conviction isn't just the best legal thriller of the year, it's one of the best thrillers period."

Dugoni's first in the Tracy Crosswhite series was released November 1, 2014 by Thomas and Mercer. Crosswhite, Seattle's First Female Homicide detective is on a twenty-year quest to find out who abducted and murdered her younger sister. The answer will shock her, and open horrifying new dangers. Look for the prequel, The Academy.

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