★★★ A thrilling suspense novel and murder mystery, Starter by James E. Loyd and David Matheson is a multi-layered narrative that includes every kind of topic you’d want in a thriller, ranging from murder, overdose, mob connections, betrayal, secrets, lies, and revealing flashbacks. The book kicks off in 1997 in an upscale neighborhood in San Antonio where a high school senior is found dead. Even though it is claimed to be due to an overdose, suspicions abound, the lives of three of the main characters intertwining at this time, before we shift back to the late sixties, getting the backstories of what led the characters to this moment. Readers will be intrigued with everything that happens, as the plot follows the father of the victim and his high school sweetheart, her father’s mob connections, and the revelation that the high school student was apparently poisoned. This leads the characters on a quest for answers, and revenge.
The story line is often complex, and even though the chapters are very short and easy to get through, there is a lot of exposition and background dumped on the reader at one time. The authors build strong characters and an interesting story line, but at times it becomes somewhat muddled due to how many characters and facets of the storytelling are being weaved together. The timeline moves quickly, with entire years being represented by short chapters that are only one or two pages long. However, the dialogue is raw and realistic, and the characters are painted in a believable fashion, making them come alive on the page. Readers will be drawn into the story, with its many twists and turns, rushing through to the very end to find the answers that seem to be alluding everyone else trapped within the pages of this suspenseful nightmare.