Tuesday, March 10, 2015

REVIEW: Lay Death at Her Door / Elizabeth Buhman

TITLE: Lay Death at Her Door
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Buhman
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Purchase links on publisher's website (click here)



Disclaimers first - I'm a fellow Red Adept Publishing author. Neither Red Adept Publishing nor Elizabeth Buhman asked me to write this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Lay Death at Her Door opens with a jarring confession: Twenty years ago, a man was murdered and a girl was raped, and the girl's testimony put the killer behind bars. She lied. Now 42, Kate Cranbrook finds that the past has come back to haunt her. The man convicted of both the crimes has been exonerated due to new evidence, and everyone wants to know what really happened. And Kate knows. But it's a secret she'll take to her grave.

The novel, told from Kate's first-person perspective, is written as if Kate herself sat down at the end of the story to write her side of it. And Kate is an incredibly unreliable narrator. She has her own motivations, and they don't include telling the reader the truth. And yet, bit by bit, the real story of what happened comes together, all building up to a shocking twist.

Buhman has crafted a skillfully constructed narrative and a truly memorable protagonist. You won't forget Kate. You'll probably hate her by the end, but she'll stay with you long after the book has ended. Kate is a manipulative storyteller whose deftness with words makes her sympathetic despite her general horridness. She's selfish, arrogant, elitist, and very possibly a psychopath (in the clinical sense - she doesn't seem capable of compassion). And yet you almost don't notice at first because of the way Buhman presents Kate's point of view. Kate is a perfectly rational person, and it's easy to see why she does the things she does.

Lay Death at Her Door has been called a thriller, but it really falls under that somewhat ill-defined crossover between thriller and women's fiction - along the lines of Gone Girl. Unlike a traditional thriller, Lay Death doesn't follow its protagonist through danger and mystery. Much of the story is devoted to depicting Kate's uncomfortable relationship with her father, Pops. There's a Grey Gardens-esque vibe to their relationship. Kate is a grown woman with a career, and yet she still feels compelled to live at home with her controlling father. But there are also elements of a crime novel through the reopened investigation into the twenty-year-old murder... and a new one that occurs right on Kate's doorstep.

All in all, this is an intriguing and addictive novel that may make some readers uncomfortable, but makes for one fascinating read.


Elizabeth Buhmann is originally from Virginia, where her first novel is set, and like her main character, she lived several years abroad while growing up. She graduated magna cum laude from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. For twenty years, she worked for the Texas Attorney General as a researcher and writer on criminal justice and crime victim issues.

Elizabeth now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, dog, and two chickens. She is an avid gardener, loves murder mysteries, and has a black sash in Tai Chi.

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