Another strong theme that pervades the work is the sense of community. The characters’ lives are interwoven, and they interact and bump into each other in the diners and streets of the fictional East Goodland, New York–clearly a quiet upstate neighbourhood. This provides an effective way for the reader to get to know these characters, through the perceptions of the people they grew up with, went to school with, and worked with. We find out much about Sam’s integrity and warmth in the reactions of those who have known him a long time. There are also lots of fun referents for fans of Lazar’s other novels. For example, in one scene, Sam and Rachel listen to Gus Legard's radio show:
"The piece Professor Legarde analyzed was particularly evocative, with searing melodies that sounded mildly Japanese and Spanish at the same time. Sam imagined a Japanese tea garden with a flamenco dancer poised on an ornate bridge. The next time he saw Gus in Wegmans, he'd have to thank him."
For mystery lovers, For Keeps won’t disappoint. There are plenty of deliciously gruesome twists and a fast-paced narrative that makes this book perfect for any reader looking for an engaging and quick read. The story includes a number of thread, including life-after-death, Satanism, the paranormal, domestic violence, and mental illness. Although Lazar pulls no punches with the plot–there is plenty of blood, cadavers, and no shortage of bad guys, somehow he manages to keep the work warm, leaving the reader energised, rather than drained by it all. Part of that is due to Sam, who is just so nice. This becomes obvious early on in the story as Sam sees to one of his former patients whose blood sugar is low. At times, the supernatural elements do stretch credulity, but because of the strength of the characterisation and the clean, rapid progression of the plot line, even a stoical, naturalistic type reader like me is willing to suspend judgement and just go with it. After all, it feels good. For Keeps is a beautifully written novel that will delight existing Sam Moore (and Aaron Lazar) fans, while drawing in new readers looking for a truly enjoyable mystery experience.