A man’s quest to uncover the secrets behind his father’s death leads to the discovery of a sinister conspiracy in small-town Ohio in Pulizzi’s debut thriller. Will Pollitt runs a marketing company in Cleveland with his friend Robby Thompson and is deep in debt due to a gambling addiction. If he can’t pay tuition for his daughter, Jess, she’ll be kicked out of college. When his father, Abe, bequeaths Will the Pollitt Funeral Home in Sandusky, Ohio, Will is stuck supervising his ex-wife, Sam, who works there as an embalmer. Will becomes suspicious about inconsistencies with Abe’s death and the autopsy report, and Abe’s journals lead him to a number of life insurance sales followed by deaths, all targeting marginalized people. Will’s life and the lives of his loved ones are threatened as he races against time to prevent further crimes.
The character development focuses on Will’s emotions and challenges as he navigates personal relationships, including his sincere fondness for Jess, his lingering love for Sam, his partnership and friendship with Robby, and his crush on his high school classmate Xena. Unfortunately, Will is a casual racist and misogynist, and unrepentant when Sam bluntly calls him out. This choice, perhaps intended to depict him as a relatable everyman, instead paints him as out of touch and unsympathetic and makes him a less than ideal hero for this story about protecting marginalized people from predatory white supremacists.
Pulizzi (Epic Content Marketing), a longtime marketing professional, realistically develops Will and Robby’s work challenges and successes alongside the suspense plot. The pace is fast, and the conspiracy is multidimensional with intricate connections that extend throughout Sandusky. Concise writing and zippy dialogue propel the story swiftly to a solid conclusion. Only the flaws in the hero’s characterization undermine this otherwise strong contemporary thriller.
Takeaway: Fans of strong but flawed protagonists will be drawn to this contemporary thriller about suspicious deaths in small-town Ohio.
Great for fans of Harlan Coben’s The Stranger, Chris Bohjalian’s The Guest Room.
Production grades Cover: B Design and typography: B Illustrations: - Editing: B Marketing copy: B