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A masterful tale of the brutal murder of a young girl and the struggle to learn the truth,
This review is from: The Passerby (Hardcover)
This is a murder mystery where there is no tense battle between a desperate and ruthless murderer and the "good persons." Twenty years earlier, eleven-year old Trudie Brice was murdered in her home, strangled with a telephone cord, her nude body was found in the bathtub as she had been taking a bath. Furthermore, she was anally raped after being killed, so the killer spent some time in the house. Finally, the killer set a fire in a bedroom after the murder in an attempt to destroy evidence. The case is still open as no one was ever charged with the crime.
Writer Ray Krouse is in the process of preparing the material for his new book. He is drawn to the murder of Trudie, so with his female sidekick "Kick", he travels to the small town of Hampton in Penn County, Indiana and begins a series of interviews with the people. The town is typical of small towns in the Midwest; the people are insular, mistrusting of outsiders and prone to petty gossip. Furthermore, most of the people who lived there at the time of the murder that are still alive still live in the area.
As Ray and Kick interview the people, one person emerges immediately as a person of interest, a level lower than a suspect. His name is Cleve Hauser and he apparently was passing by the house shortly after the murder took place and was the one that sounded the alarm regarding the murder and fire. Since he was a passerby, his role in the murder is the derivation of the title.
The interviews progress and while the people are generally willing to speak to Ray and Kick, they are often frustrated. Mistakes were made by law enforcement at the time of the murder and each person interviewed seems to have their own agenda when answering the questions. Those agendas generally involve the avoidance of revealing anything that could put them in a bad light rather than covering up their involvement in a murder. This trait creates problems for Ray and Kick as they have a hard time separating the lies due to potential embarrassment from the lies due to involvement in the murder.
At the end, their persistence pays off and Ray and Kick are able to identify the killer and there is some form of closure. While the story is interesting and very well told, it is made even more so by the statement that the book is based on a true story. Crowel is a superb storyteller, even though there is no dynamic punch or shoot-em-up action, the pursuit of the murderer keeps you riveted as you try to filter through the chaff in the search for the killer.