Terrapin: A Mystery is a new novel by T.M. Doran put out by Ignatius Press. I previously reviewed his first novel Toward the Gleam which I certainly enjoyed. A year later the plot and ideas of that novel are still with me. I thought the idea of the novel was a great idea that was executed fairly well, though the author was a bit coy with all the historical characters introduced.
Terrapin is not as vast an idea as Toward the Gleam was, but in some ways I enjoyed it more. For example the novel seems much more polished and with a more concentrated theme. In this novel a group of childhood friends are having one of their reunions to spend time over a weekend. Something terrible happens and the whole thing escalates as we advance through the novel. In some ways it is a closed room mystery with a bit of a twist. As a mystery novel it proceeds along lines that you would expect leading up towards the final confrontation. Just as a mystery novel it succeeds quite well. You are mostly kept guessing throughout as to whether the murder is part of a black bag operation from the government or something quite different.
The story is told in alternating chapters between following their reunion and going back to events in their childhood. The events of their childhood that lead up to the occurrences involved in the murder mystery slowly unfold and we get character studies of these childhood friends.
Now since this is a book put out by Ignatius Press you expect some spiritual element to it. It certainly doesn’t disappoint there, but it is with quite a light touch and rather subtle. The protagonist Dennis Cole is a mystery writer with whose father “TA” is a bit of a philosopher. The interactions with TA and the people of the neighborhood provides some of the depths for the novel. TA who is widowed as a result of a car accident provides one of the themes in the novel regarding Dennis and his desire to find the hit and run driver. In some ways some of the conversations in the book between TA and his son remind me of Gandalf’s and Frodo’s conversation regarding Gollum. Maybe that is not so surprising considering the subject of the authors first book.
I was engaged throughout both with the mystery and the semi-coming-of-age story. My only actual complaint is that the event in the past that lead to the conclusion was rather late in the book. Maybe this was necessary and it did build up to this in a way that it made everything else make sense. So if you are looking for a good mystery novel with some depth to it I would certainly recommend it.