Without Warning

By David Rosenfelt

(St. Martin’s/Minotaur, $25.99, 304 pages)

Who is this author?

David Rosenfelt grew up in New Jersey, became marketing president for Tri-Star Pictures in California and then a successful writer of novels and screenplays. His books include five “standalones” and 11 Andy Carpenter mystery novels, including “Leader of the Pack,” featuring an appealing sleuth and his dog. (More about that later.)  Rosenfelt’s second novel, “First Degree,” was a Publishers Weekly best book of 2003. The author and his wife are devoted dog lovers and moved recently from California to Maine in three RVs so that they could bring their 25 – that’s right, 25 —  rescued golden retrievers with them. Their Tara Foundation has rescued nearly 4,000 dogs.  His 2013 nonfiction book, “Dogtripping,” tells that epic tale..

What is this book about?

In small-town Maine, newspaper editor Katie Sanford is still mourning her husband, Roger, who was killed in prison after being convicted (wrongly, she insists) of the murder of Jenny Robbins, with whom he was having an affair. That killing still haunts Jake, Jenny’s husband, who is chief of police. When a hurricane hits the town of Wilton, a time capsule meant to be buried for 50 years is unearthed after just five, and its revelations are shocking: creepy predictions of a dozen murders and tragedies, including Jenny’s death, that strongly suggest Katie’s husband was not the killer after all and also implicate Jake in the various crimes. Kate and Jake now have information that could prevent the next murder and explain the mystery, if they work fast and furiously enough. But a killer this clever is no easy mark, even for this savvy duo.

Why you’ll like it:

Rosenfelt knows how to spin a good tale, and he also possesses the ability to write with dry humor, even about grim circumstances. Deeply buried dark doings in a small New England town is an almost sure-fire plot structure for an entertaining thriller, and Rosenfelt has the chops to set up the story and blend the mystery with a bit of romance and some much–needed comic relief. All of that makes for a good read.

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says:  “At the start of this riveting standalone from Edgar-finalist Rosenfelt, a hurricane destroys a Wilton, Maine, dam. When newspaper publisher Katie Sanford and her staff unearth the time capsule they buried nearly five years earlier to check for water damage, they discover skeletal remains and a set of predictions about future crimes, including the murder of the wife of police chief Jake Robbins. Months after the capsule’s burial, Katie’s husband allegedly killed Jake’s wife, with whom he’d had an affair. Other predictions correlate to an unsolved arson case and a string of murders. When Jake realizes he’s the common denominator among the crimes, he races to piece together the cryptic clues, identify potential victims, and delve into his own past to discover who wants to frame him and why. His feelings for Katie—the high school sweetheart with whom he’s starting to rekindle romance, but who represents the potentially antagonistic press—add complexity and nuance. Only some minor chronological discrepancies mar this suspenseful page-turner.”

Says Kirkus Reviews: “A methodical serial killer is on the loose in a small Maine town, and it’s up to the police chief to resolve the case before more people die in Rosenfelt’s latest police thriller. Jake Robbins is a war hero, but it’s a role he neither likes nor covets. While in Afghanistan, he was involved in an incident that won him the Navy Cross, but though he saved lives that day, others were lost, and it’s something he has a hard time reconciling. When he returned to Wilton, where he grew up, he worked his way up to chief of police, but life there has its own price: His wife, Jenny, was murdered by Roger, the publisher of the local paper, with whom she was having an affair. Roger was murdered in prison, leaving his wife, Katie, to assume control of the paper. After Wilton suffers damage from a devastating hurricane, Katie decides to dig up the town’s time capsule, something that’s buried every 50 years, to make sure it’s not damaged; when workers open the hole, they find the skeletonized body of a man who apparently died about the same time the capsule ceremony took place. Even more disturbing is the fact that the capsule, which in addition to artifacts holds predictions written by local dignitaries, now contains an extra box of predictions—each of which addresses a murder. Some of those murders—like Jenny’s—have already taken place, but others have not, and Jake must resolve the mystery before more people are killed. Rosenfelt’s staccato writing style is clean if a bit abrupt. While the action moves along at a rapid pace, he fails to flesh out the characters, making the ensuing romance between Jake and Katie seem both forced and predictable. A romance camouflaged as a thriller but a short, smooth read most will enjoy.”

“Spooky. Creepy. Edgy. Shuddery. What more could anyone want? The author of the Andy Carpenter series offers an offbeat premise. A snoozy Maine town fills a time capsule with predictions and instructions to open it in 50 years. After only five years, though, the capsule is broken by a flood, and folks get a premature look at the predictions. They’re a shock. Some forecast vile things that have happened; others predict they’re going to happen. Then they start happening, ahead of schedule, and they all obliquely involve police chief Jake Robbins. The novel steps into Michael Connelly ground as Robbins learns that the savage murders he’s investigating are about him. The cop and the reader struggle together to figure out why. So effective is this approach that it’s almost disappointing when the air of mystery evaporates as the plot becomes clear. The novel is a tad too long, and Rosenfelt’s most engaging quality—a sense of humor in the face of growing menace—sometimes feels a bit inappropriate. Still, this is highly recommended for readers craving that elusive “something different,” says Booklist.

When is it available?

“Without Warning” is on the shelves at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Albany, Camp Field, Dwight, Mark Twain and Ropkins branches.

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