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Strange but True    by John Searles order for
Strange but True
by John Searles
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Once I picked up John Searles' Strange but True, I did not want to put it down. This wonderful and unique novel grabs your attention and does not let go. Each chapter offers another twist in the story, drawing the reader in deeper and deeper.

Philip Chase is home convalescing, after a freak accident involving a fall from a fourth story New York apartment fire escape. Philip's erratic mother creates enough stress in her son's life that he does not need the problem that shows up on their doorstep one winter night. That is the night Philip's younger brother's girlfriend, Missy Moody, appears half-crazed and very pregnant with what she claims is Ron Chase's son. The only problem is, Ron Chase has been dead for five years, killed in a limo accident coming home from his and Missy's prom. Though Philip's mother rants and rails at Missy, Philip believes that she needs help. As the family tries to refute Missy's claim, they encounter twist upon twist that eventually lead Philip into dire peril. I cannot say any more for fear of giving away some of the surprises that make this novel so gripping.

Not only is the story unique, but so is Searles' style. The entire book is written in the present tense, even though it is made clear from the start that you are reading a recounting of events that have already happened. Flashbacks are generously interspersed in the narrative and offer clarifications as well as more twists. Also, as protagonists switch with each chapter, some of the story backtracks to cover what that character was doing during the time discussed in the previous chapter. The writing makes you feel that you are there with these people. This is one of the best books I have read this year. Anyone looking for a good, gripping read - and who has a day or two to spare (because you will not want to do anything but finish the book once you start) - should pick up Strange but True. I highly recommend it.

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