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By Ruth Cherry, Ph.D.

IR Rating:
No mere thriller, Ruth Cherry 's SOMETHING’S GOING ON HERE is a well-written and fascinating deep dive into one man’s reckoning with a town’s tragic history.

A newcomer in a small California town finds himself investigating mysterious goings-on that lead to danger and discovery.

Ruth Cherry is a California-based clinical psychologist whose previous books are mostly instructional texts designed to teach techniques for meditation and self-healing. With SOMETHING’S GOING ON HERE, she abandons that blueprint to write a murder mystery.

Nick Gray has retired from teaching English for twenty-five years at Pennsylvania State University and moved to the town of Los Osos, California, at his cousin’s insistence. Out for a walk one evening, Nick hears a gunshot. Within minutes, police cars and an ambulance whiz by, stopping at a house just up the road. Nick sees a body being carried out on a stretcher. The house, it turns out, is owned by Al, an odd semi-recluse. By the next day, the news is all over town that Al had killed himself. Except he hadn’t–not according to his grandson, Donny, who tells Nick “there is funny stuff goin’ on” and asks for his help in figuring it out. Ellie, Nick’s cousin, also encourages him, saying that his newness in town–he arrived only two months before–makes him the perfect person to “investigate.” When somebody breaks in and ransacks his house, Nick realizes he has no choice but to join the hunt.

A grammarian-turned-gumshoe is an unlikely protagonist for a thriller. And Nick is no rumpled, half-lidded Columbo type. He is precise. Methodical. The kind of guy whose “closets were organized before there were companies telling me I needed it.” It’s why his wife left him, or so he says. Certainly his attitude didn’t help. He is a loner like Al and seems to hate the residents of his new town, referring to them as “Los Osos crazy,” “certifiably loony Los Osos dwellers,” and “the strangest cast of characters I can imagine.” Still, these traits are what make Nick the right man to expose the “bubbling cauldron of mishap” that is his new home.

Cherry’s writing style is effortless yet visceral–an excellent combination. There are a few infelicitous lines, such as when Nick muses, “I walk through the unpaved streets and realize that my life is similarly unpaved and going who-knows-where.” Unpaved driveways, maybe, but streets? How many towns have those? There are also many good lines, such as Nick’s simple-but-elegant summary of the last conversation with his wife: “During my explanation that life wasn’t the problem, she slammed the door and disappeared. I miss her.” And there are some funny ones: “Folks hang. In my day we would hang out but now it’s just hang. When did that term change?” Moments like this soften Nick’s grumpy-guy persona, turning this whodunit into a deeper exploration of healing, redemption, community, and survival.

No mere thriller, Ruth Cherry ‘s SOMETHING’S GOING ON HERE is a well-written and fascinating deep dive into one man’s reckoning with a town’s tragic history.

~Anthony Aycock for IndieReader

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