- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

“A Line of Blood” (William Morrow), by Ben McPherson

A supposedly tight-knit family becomes torn apart after the death of a next-door neighbor in an intense debut by author Ben McPherson. “A Line of Blood” delves deep into family dynamics for a psychological thriller with realistic twists that builds to a surprising denouement.

TV producer Alex Mercer is quite proud of his “little tribe,” which consists of his wife, Millicent Weitzman, who is launching a radio show based on her self-help books, and Max, their precocious 11-year-old son. They “set clear boundaries and applied rules” in their house that “was full of love.” The couple believes they are “the classic good-enough parents,” despite Alex’s uncontrollable rages and Millicent’s frequent absences from their rented house in an economically depressed section of London’s Finsbury Park. The willful Max watches his parents closely, acutely aware of his father’s temper and his parents’ infidelities.

The family is upended when Alex and Max discover their next-door neighbor electrocuted by an iron in his bathtub. It seems to be a clear case of suicide, but the police treat the death as a homicide.

McPherson’s elegantly constructed plot reveals the secrets that bind these characters as well as pull them apart. Letters stashed in hidden boxes, furtive relationships and even sneaking cigarettes during the middle of the night contribute to the situation. Each character has something to hide, including the emotionally fragile Max, whose concerns are easily dismissed because of his age. A personal tragedy already had driven a wedge between Alex and his “tribe,” even before the neighbor’s death. The characters’ motives are cleverly revealed through a series of seemingly meaningless domestic situations.

McPherson has constructed an engrossing - and very dark - domestic thriller.

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