Book Review: Somebody I Used To Know by David Bell
“The breakout author of The Forgotten Girl and Cemetery Girl, “one of the brightest and best crime fiction writers of our time” (Suspense Magazine) delivers a new novel about a man who is haunted by a face from his past….
When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She is the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.
The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.
Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.”
I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery but for some or other reason I haven’t read too many in the last few months. After considerably enjoying two in a row though, that’s about to change.
There’s nothing fascinating about our main protagonist Nick at all except that he’s a solid and likeable character. An ordinary everyday guy, he has a normal 9 to 5 job as a social case worker; he’s been married before, is now divorced; he and his ex, Gina, are trying to be civil to one another for the sake of Andrew, his step-son; he indulges in nostalgia from time to time; and he has a gorgeous furry four-legged friend by the name of Riley. Just one thing tends to keep him from finding true happiness – he still mourns the death of his college girlfriend Marissa Minor.
One afternoon while out shopping, he notices a girl in the grocery store that looks just like Marissa and thinks he’s seen a ghost. Who is this young woman and why does she look so much like Marissa who died in a house fire two decades ago? With these questions tumbling through his head he approaches her but she flees and he doesn’t realise at the time how it is going to turn his life upside down.
When the young woman’s body is found in a motel room with his name and address written on a piece of paper, he suddenly finds himself not only being a “person of interest” but one who needs answers to the questions that have been haunting him since that day he saw her.
As he tries to assist the police in their investigation, he also seeks assistance from his good friend Laurel Davidson who works in security to help him unravel the mystery surrounding her appearance and close resemblance to Marissa. The questions that arise keep him digging and he soon finds himself being transported into a past that has haunted him for years as he discovers more than he ever bargained for.
From the very first line, David Bell grabbed my attention and didn't let go:
“When I saw the girl in the grocery store, my heart stopped."
As I got a bit further in, I found it impossible to put down and every time I turned the page I was faced with explanations that led to more questions and answers that, inevitably ... led to more questions as I was introduced to a number of characters, some of whom I got to know quite well and others who just weren't what they appeared to be.
I think Mr Bell has just found himself another fan because he did a stellar job of keeping this reader in suspense because, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t figure any of it out without Nick by my side all the way.
He has created a suspenseful, tightly plotted story where the grief and curiosity of our protagonist propels him forward as he tries to find closure on the relationship he has never let go of, giving us a well-written and fast-paced novel with plenty of lies, betrayal, moral ambiguities, cover-ups and investigative bungles that will leave you holding your breath.
This book is recommended to those who enjoy their mystery and crime thrillers with unexpected surprises that disclose disturbing truths and lies … but hold on for the ride because Mr Bell is going to mess with your head! And yes, I have no doubt that, like me, you'll be humming the lyrics to Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know, the words of which are quite appropriate!
About the Author
David Bell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. More specifically, he was born and raised on the west side of Cincinnati, which matters - a lot - to people from Cincinnati. The sound of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall broadcasting Reds’ baseball games provided the soundtrack to his childhood.
David attended college at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Not only is it one of the most beautiful campuses in the country - and at the time was home to one of the best basketball teams in the country - it was a great place for someone interested in books and writing to study. He majored in English and took as many classes in his major as he could, studying everything from Homer to Saul Bellow and Grace Paley. He only took one creative writing course—and again those stories are lost to the ages—but he did decide, absent any other job options, that it might just make sense to try to pursue a career as a fiction writer.
He worked a series of odd jobs - waiter, bartender, book store clerk, telemarketer - in a series of odd places - Shreveport, Louisiana; Savannah, Georgia; Washington D.C. After six years of that, he decided he had had enough of the real world and went to graduate school for creative writing. First for an M.A. at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and then for a Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati. During graduate school, he wrote a few novels, which still survive on his hard drive but have not been published, and sold some short stories to journals large and small, some of which still exist even after publishing his work.
He is currently an Associate Professor of English at Western Kentucky University and when he is not teaching or writing, David watches lots and lots of movies and reads lots and lots of books. He also enjoys walking in the cemetery near his house with his wife, writer and blogger Molly McCaffrey.
His previous novels include The Forgotten Girl, Never Come Back, The Hiding Place and Cemetery Girl.