Review: The Reckoning on Cane Hill by Steve Mosby

The Reckoning on Cane Hill is a terrifying and heartbreaking new novel of guilt and innocence, from CWA Dagger-­winner Steve Mosby.

In a world where guilt and innocence are in the eye of the beholder, what if you could see someone's sins? What would their sin look like?

Charlie Matheson wore her sins like a badge of repentance. An elaborate spider's web of scars covered her face. Each line carefully crafted. A message intended for the world to see. She claims these marks were put there by the Devil in Hell.

But that wasn't the message Charlie was there to deliver. 

Two years prior, Charlotte (Charlie) Matheson died in a car crash. Now, she's back from the dead to deliver a message for retired Detective John Mercer's ears only. A detective haunted by his own demons.

Unfortunately, Charlie's case landed on Detective Mark Nelson's desk. Nelson didn't believe in people materializing from the dead. Retracing her steps leads him down a path to the past where solved cases are now in question, healing wounds are reopened, and good and evil aren’t so cut and dry.

Steve Mosby pits our logic against contrived evil circumstances. He's a master of “What would you do if faced with this character's dilemmas?“ You get a sense that Mosby feels that everyone is in their own personal battle. It's our choice how we deal with it. And sometimes, like an addict that won't seek help, a character's choice continues that dilemma. 

Characters in denial also crop up throughout the book. The parents that refuse to believe their missing child was dead. How would you handle your child gone missing?

Or, take this scene in the beginning with Nelson reliving the nightmare of his girlfriend drowning before his eyes. This is how he struggles with a way to cope. How would you?

But there is a horrible truth underlying that, and a question I avoid myself. The truth is this: Lise died, and my life changed irrevocably and awfully. But in the end, not all of those changes were for the worse. My happy life now is a structure built on the foundations of that tragedy, and to remove it would remove me. As much as I loved her back then, if I were given an impossible opportunity to wind back the clock – to have Lise survive that evening and my life now to become something else entirely – would I take it?

If only we could wind back the clock. Regret plays a big part in Mosby's character motivation. Some characters handle it better than others. 

In The Reckoning on Cane Hill, Mosby has Detective John Mercer drawn back into fighting crime but on a civilian level. Mercer suffered a breakdown while working on the case of the 50/50 Killer. That heinous case involved the killer kidnapping a couple and forcing them to turn on each other to decide which lived and which died. A spider web drawn in the victim's blood was left at each crime scene. Although the killer died on Mercer's watch, he never found out the motivation behind it or the identity of the perpetrator. It's a failure Mercer struggles with every day. 

There's another member of the police force that carries the load of regret. Detective David Groves. He lost his son to a kidnapper, only to find his child's body years later.

It soon becomes apparent that these cases are connected. The spider web on Charlie's face, the request for Mercer, more mutilated victims, and Groves all were part of an elaborate plan. Like in the 50/50 Killer case, motive seemed out of reach.

Mosby engages his audience through multiple characters’ points of view. Each character delivers a trait we can relate to on some level.

The sinner in Charlie Matheson:

”Everybody is. It's nothing to be ashamed of, but it's hard for people to admit. That's the point. In life, we hide our sins and imagine that nobody sees them, nobody knows. We even hide them from ourselves. We think the past is the past, but it isn't. They're always there, aren't they?”

The grieving father in David Groves:

Once he had been a husband, a father, a man of faith and a policeman; now, those last two were all he had left, and they intertwined in him. He was a good man. He did the right thing. It was all he had now to define him.

Happy birthday, Jamie, Groves thought as he left the cottage, locking the door behind him, the card forgotten now.

I wish I could give you a cuddle.

I miss you so much.

Although Mosby fills The Reckoning on Cane Hill with characters and references from his previous book, The 50/50 Killer, this book stands well on its own. 

In this novel, as in real life, the good guys and the bad guys aren't always easy to distinguish from one another. Don't be surprised if, by the end of the book, you'll be wondering if the crime solving team will ever reunite. 

Steve Mosby wouldn't have it any other way. Or would he? 

 

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Cindy Kerschner is a freelance writer and recipe developer for major brands. She loves a good mystery she can sink her teeth into. Visit her at http://www.cindysrecipesandwritings.com/.

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