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Book Review: Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer

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Julie Kramer wrote a very good first novel. It's a suspense/mystery story called Stalking Susan. It was well put together, grounded in reality and had a superb pace.

The story is not too convoluted, which is refreshing. The central character is a news reporter named Riley Spartz. She's recovering from a personal tragedy, the details of which are revealed throughout the book and have a tenuous attachment to the story that Spartz is working on. The story is given to her by an ex-cop, now a source for the reporter: a serial killer is possibly still at large, killing women named Susan on the same day each year.

Spartz, of course, needs a big story. She's been on the sidelines in the journalism world for a while, dealing with her tragedy.  Her boss wants her to start slow and assigns her a simple pet cremation scam.  As Spartz gives it token attention, she also begins interviewing the families of the Susan victim's and trying to piece together this old case.  The police didn't feel it was a serial killer, of course, just a coincidence; thus, they'd dropped the case years ago.

The story is intriguing if not groundbreaking.  You'll likely unravel the case yourself well before the book is over.  And if you don't, it won't really come as a surprise.  But, even so, you'll be left feeling satisfied.  The story wastes no time at all.  Kramer effectively pushes her plot along, scene by scene, keeping you intrigued even if you think you know where everything's going.  At the same time, it doesn't feel rushed.  She effectively weaves in backstory and subplots.  And you can't help but like her protagonist, Riley Spartz.

Kramer is a news woman herself and brought insider knowledge to that part of the story.  That reality, along with some actual news stories that occurred in Minnesota, lend credibility to the novel.  The conflicts and procedures depicted inside the TV news station make you feel as if you get an inside peek at confidential places.  The way reporters think and write their stories is graphically displayed, too, adding another shot of realism to the story.

It's still a first novel, though. Sometimes the dialogue is a little corny and characters are a little too CSI-ish. Kramer deals with the effects of grief and guilt, though it doesn't always feel substantial.  Still, none of that is reason to overlook this book or this author.  She's already got another book out; this looks like the beginning of a beautiful authorship.

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