Looking at the description of Allison Brennan’s The Sorority Murder, readers will notice a number of crime fiction tropes are in play – the death of a young (female) college student, a podcast hoping to solve this cold case, a missing diary, a plot that unspools across dual timelines, and a complex, slightly blemished, lead investigator (or two). However, this is a veteran author who manages to put a fresh and unique spin on her tale of lies, manipulation, and murder.
Much of that vibrancy in The Sorority Murder lies at the feet of Regan Merritt. While Regan is brought in to help a student with his senior project – a podcast hoping to discover new information regarding the death of a student and sorority sister, Candace Swain, three years prior – Regan will immediately intrigue readers and become the focal point of the advancing plot. Regan Merritt is a former U. S. Marshal who left the service under tragic circumstances. Her father is also former law enforcement, with a connection to the area where the crime took place. Regan remains dedicated to justice so when her personal trauma sometimes becomes overwhelming, she is able to work through it by helping others – making the case a bit of a cathartic moment for her.
Lucas Vega is the student that Regan is assisting. He has a past with the victim – no surprise there – giving his search for the truth verve and validity. Brennan wisely allows the true reason for Lucas’s obsession to slowly reveal itself in tandem with their investigation. Coupled with the perfectly-timed revelations about Regan’s past forever bonds them both in the book itself and in the reader’s mind. They are an unlikely pairing, but one that is easy to root for, especially as things get more intense and the danger reaches their doorsteps.
The case in question took place after the annual sorority shindig three semesters back. Candace Swain was murdered, her body discovered not far from the University. However, Lucas has uncovered knowledge that there is a one-week gap between when Candace went missing and when her body was discovered, and he is convinced that someone on campus knows where she was for those days. With roadblocks and unwilling witnesses at every turn, Lucas and Regan must remain flexible and diligent in their efforts to fine new evidence.
Allison Brennan’s narrative documents a realistic path for an amateur investigation. Regan’s work history gives them some added credibility, but each step forward on the search for the truth follows a logical journey from one recently-uncovered fact to the next. So often in books of this nature, there will be leaps of faith and lucky coincidences that seem like flights of fancy, but Brennan has carefully plotted this investigation in order to avoid this pitfall. Even the final explanations of what happened bypass any epic twists to present a logical motive, casting a tragic air upon the entire affair.
Fans of character loyalty will be thrilled to know that Regan Merritt will return next year in another suspense novel from Allison Brennan. No doubt, the events of The Sorority Murder will have altered Regan’s trajectory and readers will be anxious to witness her growth as they join her for what is sure to be another fascinating investigation.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.