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"The Mystery Writer" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz

“The Mystery Writer,” by Sulari Gentill, is a contemporary thriller about writers, the writing process, and publishers. It also gives light to the unsettling world of conspiracists and conspiracy theories. I have never considered that a bestselling novel might have an underlying agenda, but I might read differently from now on.

            Theodosia “Theo” Benton is in her early 20s and has left law school in Australia to follow her brother Gus to Lawrence, Kansas, where he’s a successful partner in a prestigious law firm. His home and the coffeeshops surrounding it become a place for Theo to write novels which has always been her dream.  Her “off the grid” upbringing has developed her imagination and the offbeat premises for her novels. 

            Theo meets a man named Dan Murdach at a coffee shop. He is actually a well-known author with a high public profile, but his readers have never seen his face. Murdach’s photos on book jackets are shadowed and obscure. Theo is thrilled that he has taken an interest in her and her writing.

            With Murdach’s help, Theo’s first novel is accepted by an eminent publisher. Her life changes, but not for the better. When the outline for her second book is stolen, those privy to its seemingly conspiracy-laden contents are murdered. 

            When conspiracy theorists read her second book which is published from the outline, they see a message which fortifies their belief in their bunkers and stockpiles of guns and supplies.

            Theo, her brother, and a private investigator called Mac are likable characters. Those in the periphery of the story are not, although some are redeemed in the end. The small-town feel of Lawrence and the characters in the coffee shops provide a seemingly normal environment.  This comfortableness belies the terror and mystery that emerge from novels being published by a select few of very private writers with nefarious pasts. 

            “The Mystery Writer” is a choice selection for mystery and thriller fiction fans. It also is a testament to popular writers and the dark web’s ability to reinforce modern day conspiracy theories.  

This mystery/thriller is Australian Sulari Gentill’s third standalone book about writers and their relationships to their characters, their readers, and their power to influence society. “After She Wrote Him” and “The Woman in the Library” are the first two. Both were award nominees and bestsellers.



   

 

 

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