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The Anniversary    by Amy Gutman order for
by Amy Gutman
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's rare that a book keeps me up reading through the night, but The Anniversary had me glued to the pages. And, though I had an inkling of where the story was going, Amy Gutman was still able to repeatedly surprise me all the way through this addictive novel.

As it opens in Nashville, Tennessee, we meet Laura, the troubled girlfriend of charismatic serial killer Steve Gage. Laura is haunted by guilt and by her gullibility in accepting Steve's explanations for the 'blood-soaked shirt behind the bed' and other items, for which he always had a ready explanation. After Steve Gage is sentenced to death and executed, the story fast fowards eleven years.

Three women with links to the case receive 'Happy Anniversary' notes on April 5th, the day that Gage was executed. One is Callie Thayer, who now has a daughter, Anna, and a police officer boyfriend, Rick Evans. Another is Diane Massey, who has built a highly successful career out of writing true crime stories, that started with the one on Stephen Gage's life, The Vanishing Man. The third is high-profile anorexic lawyer Melanie White, engaged to a man she does not love. Melanie was Gage's defense lawyer.

Someone linked to Gage goes after these three women, who hesitate to involve the police, given past experience with the press and a fear of the effects of media interest on their lives. Is it, as Callie believes, punk rapist/murderer Lester Crain, who met Gage on Death Row and is grateful to him for help in overturning his conviction (Crain later escaped custody and disappeared)? Or is there another UNSUB, which is the strongly held theory of profiler Mike Jamison?

Gutman's characters are all real, with full lives and grown-up issues to deal with - my only reservation being in the transformation of Laura from someone with huge self-esteem problems to a much stronger woman. The profiler's comments are especially interesting as when he responded to the question of whether Gage was insane, in terms of the legal definition of being able 'to control an impulse to kill other human beings ... It's the choice to resist an impulse that no normal person feels.'

In The Anniversary, Amy Gutman does a brilliant job of laying false trails so that the reader suspects everyone and everything. She presents to us people that we grow to like and we worry about what will happen to them, then watch in horror as events unfold. Don't miss this one!

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