"THE EXECUTIVE GRAVEYARD," by Shaye Mann, $8.99, 340 pages (f)
In his first attempt at writing a mystery novel, Shaye Mann does a decent job with a chilling tale — obviously inspired by the recent court case involving a man who is accused of pushing his wife off a dangerous hiking trail.
The story is interesting and pretty well written, and Mann's worked out the details so that the connections make sense, even if they're a little farfetched. (What are the odds that the victim would have worked for a corporate firm that offended one of the bad guys years ago?)
Nick Perrone is hiking in Zion National Park, trying to come to terms with what he should regard as positive changes in his life when things go very wrong for him. His wife is seven months pregnant with their first child, and he's not sure he's ready to settle down.
But he soon realizes what he has in his life is precious once he's taken captive and his life threatened by men interested in money and revenge.
He's luckier than the band's first few victims as his execution is delayed by a man who first appears to be his savior.
Thus begins a saga of suffering and torture and a best friend's frantic efforts to prevent what comes next.
The premise that people can disappear without much question is based on the condition of bodies after they fall down pretty rugged terrain and into rivers or lie for weeks before discovery. It's a given that law enforcement officials give up pretty quickly on missing persons.
It also assumes no one comes looking for the hapless victims, many of whom are buried in "The Executive Graveyard" near the canyon trail.
The money-making scheme involves stealing the victim's car and switching out the VIN number before selling it overseas.
Again, not sure that kind of crime is as simple as it's laid out to be.
For the most part, the story is readable, engaging to a point if one doesn't worry too much about the victim's physical needs or ability to endure captivity without serious consequences.
It moves along at a nice enough pace and keeps the tension up.
There are a few pages with profanities and some cold-blooded killing, but it's kept to a minimum. It's not a story for the young, but it's interesting to explore one theory about the death of a wife who lagged behind her husband on a southern Utah mountain trail and died.
It's obvious that the author knows the territory (he describes it well enough that readers can recognize various points and places) and the workings of law-enforcement agencies that have to cross jurisdictional lines.
Mann does have a tough time wrapping it up at the end as the upper hand switches back and forth between the good guys, the bad guys and the newcomers to the scene, but still, he shows promise as an author.
If you go ...
What: Shaye Mann book signing
When: Saturday, Dec. 7, 4 p.m.
Where: Weller Book Works, 607 Trolley Square, Salt Lake City
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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