This was actually a difficult story for me to “rate” because my rating does not altogether reflect how much I enjoyed the story. We meet at the outset, Vince O’Mally, a detective promising the mother of two children who have been abducted—against O’Mally’s own better judgment—that he would find them. Of course, O’Mally does find them. But the scene wherein the children are found is so horrific that O’Mally cannot get it out of his mind. (Readers note: fortunately, the scene is not shared with us!) Ordered to get counseling or take a break, O’Mally decides to take a break—but not so that he can rest. Rather, O’Mally decides to start his own investigation. Off O’Mally goes to Dilmun (a small town wherein nothing bad ever happens) because O’Mally’s only lead is an overdue library book from the Dilmun library. The book, found at the crime scene with the dead children, had been checked out some years ago and then never returned.
As the story progresses, O’Mally meets the small town residents, including Holly Newman, who had witnessed as a young girl, her own sister’s abduction. Holly’s sister, Ivy, had never been found—and Holly had never quite gotten over the experience. So, when a full-fledged investigation begins in Dilmun for the child molester and killer, Holly is at the center of the activities.
The Gingerbread Man was the kind of read that made me keep going back for more. I quite enjoyed it! Even so, there were a few issues that perplexed me. How was it that Holly could remember the eyes of her sister’s abductor but never recognized them as belonging to someone who was a part of her own everyday life in the intervening years? It was not until Amanda (the “adopted daughter” of the local celebrity and recluse) identified the predator that Holly put the pieces together. Perhaps this is not altogether unusual, but it did strike me as odd. And, why would the local physician who was a Dilmun resident at the time of Ivy’s abduction not have recognized a certain similarity between her and Amanda? (He would have known Ivy for the same reason he knew Holly—they spent their summers in Dilmun.) For that matter, how is it that none of the other townsfolk did either? In addition, why would that local physician take it upon himself to determine who was or was not potentially responsible for some reprehensible act when he really could not know of what someone might be capable? In short, these issues did not entirely add up for me. Even so, I genuinely appreciated Holly’s journey to find her own strength. I also appreciated that O’Mally recognized, because he was inclined to fall (unwisely) for the needy, that he should avoid Holly. But, it was in those moments when Holly showed herself most capable that O’Mally found her most attractive. Thus, it seems, both characters grew.
I recommend Gingerbread Man to anyone who enjoys a good mystery thriller!
Find out more about Maggie Shayne on Goodreads here and on her website here. Gingerbread Man is available from Amazon here and from Barnes and Noble here.