I don’t have a favorite mystery.
That’s not true.
I always have a favorite mystery, but it’s not always the same one. I have the same problem trying to name my favorite song. How in the world can I choose a favorite song when there are so many variables to consider? Am I in a contemplative mood? Then I want to hear Turn the Page by Bob Seger. Am I getting pumped up for a workout and want to feel invincible? Give me Made of Scars by Stone Sour. Am I feeling nostalgic? Crank up If You Don’t Like It by Cinderella… Shut up. Don’t judge.
The point is, my favorite mystery in college wasn’t my favorite mystery when I first entered law enforcement and I’ve had a dozen favorites as I’ve gone on to pursue other avenues and write a few mysteries and thrillers of my own. However, my list of most original mysteries is significantly shorter than my list of favorites and it just so happens those books are on my favorites list as well.
I’m a sucker for mysteries that break the mold and The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters and Think of a Number by John Verdon have stuck with me for quite some time. But, it’s a recent mystery by Pittsburgh author Tom Sweterlitsch that I want to discuss, because it’s a mystery, thriller, and epic journey all in one.
Tom and I had our first novels come out around the same time. I was still living in the Pittsburgh area back then, so it was simply a matter of time until our paths crossed on the author circuit. Tom’s first book, Tomorrow and Tomorrow was a dystopian mystery set in Pittsburgh and, while I normally don’t read that genre, I gave it a try and I’m glad I did. So when his second novel, The Gone World, came out in early 2018, I grabbed it immediately.
It… blew… me… away.
The protagonist, Shannon Moss, is a Special Agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). So, the book is extremely similar to the popular TV show NCIS.
Oh… except the book begins with Moss undertaking a mission into the distant future where she sees herself crucified, gets a glimpse of an apocalyptic event that is going to destroy life on Earth, and loses her leg. Then she’s back in the present (1997), where she needs to solve a murder and the clues lead her on a journey in which she’s going to have to travel back and forth between multiple possible futures and her present to help find the killer or killers and unravel an even larger mystery that could affect all of mankind.
Okay. So, maybe it’s not like the TV show.
Now if you’re a reader of mysteries of the more-traditional variety, don’t let the premise scare you off. While I tend to shy away from books that even touch on science fiction, The Gone World pulled me in with its strong character development and a story that moves along at a blistering pace. Set in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, the present, the future, and places I can’t even begin to describe, The Gone World is the most original mystery you will read for years to come.
J.J. HENSLEY is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He is the author of the novels Resolve, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, and Record Scratch. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers. His website is www.hensley-books.com
J.J. Hensley’s next novel, Forgiveness Dies is set for release on October 14, 2019.