Imagine Newton, a "college community of approximately 150,000 people, although the number drastically reduces in the summer months due to the mass exodus of the student population. . . . But for all the splendor and beauty of this Northern California city, scratch just beneath the delicate surface of superficial tranquility to discover a dark murderous evil prowling the city." It is 2004 and there is a serial killer on the loose whose gruesome calling card can hardly be described in a family newspaper.
Area author Sherry Long, a hair stylist, mother and grandmother, probes the psychological depths of the "malevolent evil" stalking Newton in a fast-paced, violent and shocking tale, "What If You Hadn't?" ($29.95 in paperback from PublishAmerica). She will be signing copies of her novel this Saturday from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Chico. The public is invited.
When reformed hooker Bianca Fugate becomes one of the victims, Homicide Lt. Brad Belser finds himself falling head over heels for her friend, Teagan Chandler, right at the start of the interview. She is deeply attractive to the twice-divorced Belser, and Teagan is equally taken with him, a Russell Crowe look-alike "with seductive Johnny Depp eyes." She, too, knows the loss of love. Her college-days romance with her current employer, Alan, ended suddenly when she discovered him to be a faithless cad. Now he wants to renew the relationship, but she has eyes only for Brad.
Love, as it so often does, complicates the proceedings until Brad and Teagan are ensnared in a web of horrendous secrets.
There are lighter moments. Early on, Long has Belser "reading a book he couldn't put down. . . . 'The Truth About Jacob' was written by a first time published author. He'd read her bio on the back cover because he'd wondered to himself, what kind of woman could think of those twists and turns in the plot?" Sherry Long is that kind of woman, and she doesn't disappoint in her new novel, either. The language is raw and it comes mixed with sex and grisly death. The reader is drawn into the story, in spite of or maybe because of its ghastly scenes, and the emotions will not rest until the killer is found.