Saturday, January 20, 2024

Book Review: "Devils at the Door" by Tessa Wegert

One of my favorite mystery series in recent years has been Tessa Wegert's featuring New York State senior police investigator Shana Merchant. Shana has been through a lot over the last few years, both personally and professionally, and still bears the physical and emotional scars of that trauma. But she's definitely no victim; she's a complex, flawed character who isn't above following her own path despite what she's told by her superiors.

When the book (the fifth in the series) begins, Shana's older brother Doug calls to share concerns about his teenage daughter, Henrietta, who has gone from being a cheerful and popular 16-year-old to a rebellious, morose troublemaker, getting drunk and crashing his car. Doug hopes that if Hen spends a few months with Shana and her fiancé (and colleague), Tim, that she'll be back to her old self in no time. But Shana is shocked at just how much Hen has changed, how sullen and manipulative she has become, and her presence creates tension between Shana and Tim.

It's not long before Shana discovers some of her possessions are missing, and Hen is sneaking out at night. And while she starts to despair if Alexandria Bay is the right place for her niece, late one night she is called to Devil's Oven, a remote island that used to be a popular hangout for area teens, as a drowning has been reported. It turns out the victim is a local teenager, and as Shana tries to make sense of what happened, she makes two disturbing discoveries—she finds two other teenagers on another part of the island who don't seem the least bit concerned about the drowning, and she also finds Hen at the scene of the crime. Apparently Hen tried to rescue the young man, to no avail.

As the investigation proceeds, and neither Hen nor her friends will share much information about what happened that night, Shana is forced to recuse herself given Hen's involvement. And when a new investigator comes to town, Shana worries that her niece may become a suspect rather than simply a witness. She is determined to uncover the truth despite the scrutiny she's under, and she discovers a web of secrets that could rock their small town, as well as just how much her family's own secrets still trail her.

I love the way Wegert writes, and I have become so enamored of this community she has created. While frustrating at times, Shana is an absolutely fascinating character, and I really enjoy Tim and the other supporting characters I feel I have come to "know" through this series. I hope we get to see more of Shana and spend more time in A-Bay!

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