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Twenty Years Later


Twenty Years Later

It's time for more people to find out about USA Today and internationally bestselling author Charlie Donlea. He has been penning solid mystery/thrillers for years but continues to fly way under the radar. Hopefully that will change after readers sink their teeth into TWENTY YEARS LATER, which is probably the most complex and morally satisfying novel that Donlea has written thus far. Here, he deftly utilizes 9/11 to pinpoint a moment in time that is necessary to the plot while not in any way using the tragedy to manipulate the feelings of readers.

The irony of the novel centers on a brutal murder that takes place in the Catskill Mountains area of upstate New York involving former bestselling thriller author Cameron Young. His naked body is found hanging from the rear deck of his home. Upon further inspection, the police find blood samples belonging to another party. As they dig deeper, they uncover a seriously brazen S&M sex tape featuring Cameron and Victoria Ford, who was not his wife. It is later determined that it was Victoria’s blood at the crime scene.

"Donlea subtly moves away from the 9/11 tragedy and makes his story more about the present-day characters as they battle to find the truth through a sea of lies and false accusations."

As she realizes that she is about to be indicted for murder, Victoria heads off to meet with her attorney. Regrettably, his office is in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and her appointment is on September 11, 2001. On that fateful morning, she feels a slight shudder and then hears glass smashing. Unfortunately, she will not make it out alive, and her remains will be one of the thousands of unrecovered victims.

Now, 20 years later, two things happen that will catch the eye of Avery Mason, the host of “American Events.” It could not come at a better time as Avery and her intimidating hulk of an agent are in the midst of contract negotiations. First, the bones uncovered at the site of the World Trade Center turn out to be Victoria’s. Her sister, Emma Kind, has been waiting with great patience to share something that will help clear her name. The second item is a phone call that Victoria made to Emma just moments before she perished in which she urges her to continue to fight on her behalf as she did not murder Cameron.

Avery meets with Emma, and they become fast friends. Emma turns over both the cassette tape and answering machine containing Victoria’s final message. Avery wants to make it not so much about the incredible strides we have made scientifically with identifying murder victims from decades earlier, but more so about the Cameron Young murder case that got brushed under the carpet purely due to its unfortunate proximity in time to the events of 9/11.

With all of her extraordinary research skills being put to the test, Avery dives deep into the case to seek justice for Cameron and possibly vindicate Victoria. This includes speaking with as many members of law enforcement as she can who were involved in the original investigation. Retired FBI agent Walt Jenkins strongly states that every piece of evidence unequivocally points to Victoria as the killer.

Avery will not give in that easily. Like a bulldog with a bone, she holds on tight and continues to zero in on Victoria’s life and her possible role in the murder. But she never anticipated that someone else might do a deep dive into her own background --- a background that holds a secret that could rock her world and completely discredit her.

The latter third of TWENTY YEARS LATER focuses on Avery's issues, which is what makes the novel so brilliant. Donlea subtly moves away from the 9/11 tragedy and makes his story more about the present-day characters as they battle to find the truth through a sea of lies and false accusations.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 7, 2022

Twenty Years Later
by Charlie Donlea

  • Publication Date: December 28, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 1496727169
  • ISBN-13: 9781496727169