“The 37th Hour” (2003) by Jodi Compton. This debut by Ms. Compton was a very good read when I read it several years ago. So far there are only two books in the Sarah Pribeck series with the last one, “Sympathy Between Humans” released in 2005. No mention on the author’s website about the status of the series (eternal limbo?) but I’ve emailed her to ask. Meanwhile, this is a favorite book of mine that I wanted to spotlight again. A few plot points are mentioned so if you don’t care for specifics please don’t read past the break.
Detective Sarah Pribeck is a seasoned Minneapolis detective working in missing persons in Hennepin County. She gets handed a case that is personal. Her husband, Mike Shiloh, who’s also a cop, has been missing for two months. Sarah has very few clues to work with since her husband didn’t share a lot of his past with her and he was also estranged from his family. What little she does learn through her investigation leads her to a painful family secret.
There is quite a lot of back-story that may put some readers off. However, this was a debut of a new series and the author takes her time introducing her characters and fleshing them out quite a bit while telling an intriguing story. We learn Sarah’s close friend, Genevieve, had a daughter, Kamareia who was close to Sarah and her husband. Kamareia was raped and murdered and due to a legal technicality, the murderer was set free.
The story then shifts to the missing husband, Mike Shiloh aka “Shiloh”. Sarah and Shiloh first meet at an airport bar that leads to a one-night stand. No last names. Both vulnerable. Sarah had just come back from her father’s funeral and Shiloh had just gotten out of a “very wrong affair.” A few months pass and they meet up again on a narcotics bust to each other’s chagrin–realizing that they both are cops– they immediately avoid each other.
Mike Shiloh is not a very approachable person. For instance, when they first meet up again, Shiloh snubs her at a companionable basketball game between officers and seems to be uninterested in her despite their “secret” affair that neither acknowledges. Eventually they date and then marry. Shiloh is so guarded in his feelings that Sarah is often left in the dark about a lot of things in their relationship. When Shiloh turns up missing, Sarah takes on the case and realizes she knows very little about her husband or his life before he met her. Eventually she learns about a deeply buried family secret of the Shiloh’s that may or may not change the way she feels about her husband.
Jodi Compton has a very engaging narrative style and voice. The novel is character driven while the mystery took a back seat. All the characters no matter how minor the role were written well. I thought Genevieve’s grief was at times very challenging given her zombie like actions and watching her later giving up on life since her daughter’s death. Sarah Pribeck is a very likable character prone to being a bit careless at times. I liked the other things we learned about her too: that she was tall and an athlete who played basketball in college before becoming a cop.
The follow-up “Sympathy Between Humans” I haven’t read yet but it also features Sarah Pribeck and just recently, the author released “Hailey’s War” which is a stand-alone novel. I have no idea if the author ever plans to continue the series. It’s a shame if she doesn’t as I found her narrative voice like I said very engaging and her characters well drawn. From my positive reaction to her stories, I think she writes very well for someone with just three books under her belt. My grade, B.
Side Note: Also, I noticed on Amazon.com that the reviews are less than favorable but it seems to be a balance there of four and five and three star reviews which led me to believe that this novel wasn’t as bad as I had originally thought due to those reviews. I took the chance and bought the book to see how I would like it and lo and behold I enjoyed it very much.
Another Note: This is a revised review from an earlier blog post at my other blog (awkward sentence sorry)