Unlike his last outing in which he charged from state to state, Carter Blake spends a great deal of time here in the one town – Bethany, Georgia. Having returned to a place in which he once lived, in order to attend a funeral, Blake’s next mission falls into his lap following a chance encounter with an old friend. He feels both compelled to help, but also intrigued – because this time the person he has to find is already dead.
The one road in-one road out, small town nature of Bethany, bordered by dense woodland and mountains, provides a picturesque but often claustrophobic backdrop to this novel. In Presumed Dead we find Blake thinking rather than muscling his way through the mystery, and in my view this adds a further dimension to the character of Carter Blake which we saw the roots of in Mason Cross’s previous novel.
The root mystery surrounds the presumed death of Adeline Connor, suspected to be the final victim of the Devil Mountain killer. That was 15 years ago, only her brother is convinced he saw her just a few weeks ago alive and well in Atlanta. The original PI he asked to intervene is dead, and now Blake, a specialist in locating people who don’t want to be found, finds himself in the firing line. The local police department don’t exactly welcome Blake with open arms, apart from female cop Isabella Green, who goes out of her way to make his stay comfortable.
The narration comes at us via different viewpoints, and we are helped to understand these changes in POV by the author clearly labelling each section with that character’s name. I like this style of writing, as it allows the author to get you beneath the skin of each character as the story thunders along at Mason Cross’s usual breath-taking pace. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way – some clearly signposted, many which require close attention as you read. Multi-layered deceptions slowly unravel, and the suspect spotlight falls on a number of people towards the end of what is an atmospheric, brooding and compelling thriller.
Just what this reader has come to expect from both Mason Cross and Carter Blake – two men whose real identities are kept under wraps.