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This is How We End Things


This is How We End Things

Spring break has arrived at Dorrance University, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather. Most of the student body has fled campus for warmer climates, while five graduate students involved in a research experiment --- Elizabeth, Chris, Britt, Scarlett and Robert --- remain. A new member, Veronica, joins the team at the last minute. Professor Joe Lyons is leading the group, which is doing a somewhat sketchy study about lies and deception. Being chosen to participate is a huge honor, though. At least it felt that way until one of them turns up dead. Murdered, it appears.

The small town of Shepard, North Carolina, is stunned by the news. Murders in their community just don’t happen. Local detective Alana Larson --- fierce, dogged and tenacious, yet compassionate almost to a fault --- tackles the case right away. She has the assistance of campus police officer Patrick King, who is only months away from retiring but is no less dedicated.

"You’ll want to stay up all night --- with the lights on --- until the very end so you can find out whodunit. There’s little chance you’ll figure it out on your own."

Despite the murder occurring at night in Hull Hall, the building that Professor Lyons uses for his group, all of the grad students appear to have been in the general area, if not directly at the scene. That certainly doesn’t help narrow the list of suspects from the start. And the fact that they’ve been studying the art of deception makes it nearly impossible to know who to believe and when. Maybe cell phone data and security cameras will yield valuable clues. They might if they were working and hadn’t been manipulated.

So the police begin their investigation, working against the clock. Forecasters say a huge snowstorm is headed their way. The cops have learned that the subject of the study resulted in some angry participants, especially considering the method of recruiting them, which itself involved deception. They didn’t need an expanded suspect pool, but it looks like they have one. And Professor Lyons’ romantic relationship with one of his students complicates the case as well.

Despite being the new addition to the group, Veronica has packed up and is ready to get out of town, which throws more suspicion on her than she’d like. To Larson, Chris and Britt seem “off” somehow, but she can’t put her finger on precisely what bothers her about them. Scarlett was, admittedly, close to the scene of the murder, but she had her little girl with her. Larson has a hard time believing that any mother would bring their child along when planning to kill someone. As for Robert, none of the others can picture him being the culprit. After talking with each of the possible killers, Larson and King are still scratching their heads. So they look to the forensics. First, follow the cell phones. When they do, they find plenty of surprises.

R.J. Jacobs has written THIS IS HOW WE END THINGS from the different points of view of each character, making for a highly entertaining read. Everyone is hiding something. Everyone has a big secret. And almost everyone has a motive for murder. But whose motive is strong enough to actually push them to kill? You’ll want to stay up all night --- with the lights on --- until the very end so you can find out whodunit. There’s little chance you’ll figure it out on your own.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on September 15, 2023

This is How We End Things
by R.J. Jacobs