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The Brim Reaper (Style & Error Mystery #3)
Diane Vallere

A Devious Plan

A Devious Plan - Michael S. Walsh With an unfaithful wife and a career in shambles, troubled Bill Ferguson decides to take drastic action. Lost and floundering, he becomes intrigued by a news story about a man who attempted to fake his own death and failed miserably. Bill, learning from this man’s mistakes, decides to improve upon the idea and then steal the $3 million life insurance payout from his “widowed” wife and live the rest of his life single and in luxury!

It’s an interesting premise and almost guaranteed to be a suspenseful thriller! The book actually opens with the details of Bill’s “murder” and then proceeds to backtrack and explain how his life pushed him to the point of faking his death. The plot is a known, and predictable, premise. His career is struggling and his wife is unfaithful; he doesn’t want to have to go through a divorce and split up assets; he wants revenge. My problem initially was mainly that the set-up was predictable and I didn’t really feel any anger or dislike for his cheating wife. I couldn’t feel any emotion that would make me dislike her and therefore root for Bill. Yes, he had been demoted at work but the book tells us that he had become complacent and lazy at work perfectly content to allow others to do the bulk of the work for him. He deserve the demotion. He and his wife hadn’t been close for years. There was no anger or hate or animosity between them. He had been unfaithful in their relationship back in college. It was simply a couple that had drifted apart and had not made their marriage a priority. They were both at fault in its destruction. I had no reason, emotionally, to care if Bill got away with it or not. I was curious, but not emotionally invested.

When the “murder” occurred and the plot started to really develop my expectations were pretty high. This was a great set-up! Bill’s “murder” was pretty great and I was impressed with the thought and detail that Walsh put in to writing it. I was excited to see how the investigation unfolded and if Bill was actually caught. Bill set about creating new identities and staying ahead of the investigators. It all just happened so conveniently that I began to feel myself frustrated with the story. The first detective questions details of the crime but is told by his superiors not to pursue his questions. A private detective agency is hired but yet that also ends quite perfectly. There are a few random characters that are introduced purely as minor plot points, wrap up a loose end, and then disappear into literary oblivion and are never heard from again. There is very little conflict or suspense built between the investigators and Bill Ferguson. I found myself thinking back to movies or other really intense suspense books and there is always that one primary conflict. That one major game of cat-and-mouse between the protagonist and antagonist. Bill Ferguson didn’t really have a major antagonist and the book struggled because of it. There were too many people involved in the investigation and none of them were around long enough to build any major drama. There was Dmitri, John, Andy and Charlie but none of them were the major pursuer. There were no narrow escapes (unless you count what happens in South Carolina but I don’t. That was far too convenient and irrelevant) or really suspenseful dramatic moments.

The ending was also abrupt. I remember reading the final paragraph and wishing there was at least one more chapter to provide a little bit more insight and a deeper conclusion.

I believe, from what I’ve seen online, that this is the first book by Michael S. Walsh. His talent and knack for creativity is apparent. A Devious Plan was a good book, a fun read, and an interesting way to pass the time. Unfortunately it fell short of being stellar or anything dramatically memorable. If the character development had been a little bit deeper or the conflict been a little bit more dramatic this would have been a far better book and I could give it a better recommendation. It is worth a read especially if you’re in the market for an easy quick mystery but, unfortunately, it’s just not remarkable. I am, however, really looking forward to future books by Michael S. Walsh. Walsh’s name could be among the top mystery writers if he takes the time to expand the details of the story.

Ashley LaMar
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