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Reef Road Bets On...

Reef Road

January 2023

REEF ROAD by Deborah Goodrich Royce is my first Bets On selection of 2023. Any book that is set in Palm Beach, Florida, and opens on a beach is going to catch my eye in January. But it starts with a less than serene scene as a hand is found by some boys who are surfing on a beach that has been marked as closed. It sets up the crime that will be revealed later on.

The book’s inspiration came from a horrific event from Deborah’s mother’s childhood. In December 1948, her mother’s childhood best friend was brutally murdered in Pittsburgh. The assailant was never found, and the crime haunted her mother for years. The story was one that stayed with Deborah. She has woven a fictitious scenario of that homicide into the events happening in the present.

The story is written from two points of view: The Writer and The Wife. The Writer remembers a crime that devastated her mother years ago --- the death of her friend, Noelle. We read her perspective, but she is not identified in the book until about halfway through. The Wife is Linda, a married mother of two children who have gone missing, along with her husband. What happened to this happy family? The two characters are fully developed; as you read, you wonder how they are going to come together. For a long time, The Writer is just observing; she also could be called The Watcher as she is picking the moment to reveal herself.

The first half is a setup that moves slowly, giving you clues. The writing and what-ifs are strong enough to keep you reading. So are the very short chapters that worked well, especially for my post-holiday brain. The stories start to come together about halfway through the book, and I found myself riveted to the pages. The tension was palpable. The truth was somewhat evident until it was not. Who was to be trusted? How crazy was The Writer? How cunning and clever was The Wife?

REEF ROAD is cleverly done and felt like a braiding of true crime and fiction. Deborah’s writing is very visual, and I closed the book feeling like I had been there at various points. I look forward to seeing what she writes next! 

Reef Road
by Deborah Goodrich Royce