Review: Bad Moon by Todd Ritter

Bad Moon
By Todd Ritter
368 Pages
Minotaur Books

A little boy named Charlie Olmstead disappears from the small town of Perry Hollow on the night Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Everyone just assumes that he fell into a nearby stream, was carried over a waterfall, and killed. Everyone except his mother, who on her deathbed 40 years later asks her other son (a baby at the time of the disappearance) to find the truth of what happened that night. With the help of a state cop turned cold case detective and the sheriff of Perry Hollow – his old flame, Kat Campbell – Eric Olmstead attempts to do just that.

First of all, let me say that I wish I had been smart enough to look and see that this is the SECOND BOOK IN A FREAKING SERIES. I can’t believe I missed it. I’m usually all business about reading series in order (I’m similarly neurotic about watching episodes of tv shows in order). I started to suspect early on into the book because the characters were “remembering” previous events, so I looked it up and BAM. #2 in a series. That said, it can totally stand on its own and it is unnecessary to read the first book in order to follow along with this one. I only point it out in case you’re fanatical about reading series in order like I am.

Anyway, once I got past my irritation with myself I got hooked in right away. The mystery was really interesting and twisty, and the pacing was very quick. It kind of reminded me of the good aspects of a James Patterson novel in the sense that once things got going they rarely slowed down (and unlike Patterson novels, the chapters are more than two pages long). The writing was a plain, straightforward style, and I mean that as a compliment. There isn’t a ton of fluff here so there aren’t parts that lag. There also isn’t a ton of character development, but again, that can most likely be chalked up to the fact that the two primary protagonists have already been introduced in a previous book. And I feel like I’m saying this a lot lately, but I didn’t even come close to guessing the ending. Either I’m slipping or I’m reading a lot of really well written mysteries. I’m thinking it’s the latter.

One bonus thing that I did really like was that there is a special needs character, specifically the female protagonist’s young son has Down Syndrome. Characters with disabilities seem few and far between in books, at least in my experience.

As an aside, most of the places in the book are fictional but one real place – Centralia, PA – is mentioned frequently. If you’re not familiar, look it up when you have a moment. It’s a town sitting on top of a coal mine that has literally been on fire for the past 50 years. It’s a modern-day ghost town and a seriously, seriously creepy place.

I’ll be adding the first book in the series, Death Notice, to my to-read list. Recommended.

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