Peter Rosch | My Dead Friend Sarah (CreateSpace)

It is giving nothing away to say that Sarah dies, considering the title says so, but when and how it happens and “whodunit” is the business of the book.

 

The ease of self-publishing these days is allowing a lot of new authors to get their work into print, the good, the bad, and the in-between. I read this novel on Kindle, the greatest boon for instant gratification since, well, since ever. And Rosch falls squarely in the middle of the talent pack with his first effort, a mystery that draws some interesting parallels within the story, has a possibly unreliable narrator, and a reasonably solid plot, but apparently no editor at all, or at least none for whom punctuation, grammar and word usage matter in the slightest.

After a while, the reader gets used to the stylistic mess this book is or quits reading it. I was tempted to do the latter, but it is a tribute to Rosch’s storytelling skills that I did finish it, and I was actually pleased with the way it all played out. However, for those who can’t stand any hint of ambiguity (and you know who you are) this one isn’t for you. And, while Rosch’s prose is straightforward most of the time, there are some portions that reveal his inexperience as a writer, primarily in some of the dialogue. Some conversations sound stilted, and some are trite. But there are redeeming passages, as well.
 
It is giving nothing away to say that Sarah dies, considering the title says so, but when and how it happens and “whodunit” is the business of the book. The prologue is set in a police station where recovering alcoholic Max is being questioned about Sarah’s disappearance. It seems Max dreamed for months before he even met her that she would be abducted, then he saw a closed casket at the end of the dream or, perhaps, vision. He never actually viewed her body in his mind’s eye, but he was certain that whatever happened resulted in her death. One day, he actually saw the girl of his dreams (and not in the usual way that phrase is used) on a Manhattan street. He’s not sure how one can go up to a stranger and say, “Hi. I’ve been dreaming about you being kidnapped and murdered,” so instead, he starts following, or perhaps more accurately stalking, her.
 
As events unfold, we learn that he did report his dream to the police on one occasion. We also find out a lot more about Max, his wife Rachel and their troubled marriage, and are told more than anyone might ever want to know about Alcoholics Anonymous. When we meet Max, he has been sober for 10 months. He hasn’t been attending meetings as regularly as he had, nor is he spending much time with his sponsor, Sam, but he is absolutely convinced he will not drink again. Max actually strikes me as more of a “dry drunk” than a recovering alcoholic, because while he talks the talk, he has trouble walking the walk. He still wants to control things which he cannot. And getting to know Sarah is the rip that causes the fatal tear in his carefully constructed world, through which he has become accustomed to treading very lightly.
 
I think you’ll find some surprises and even unexpected pleasures in My Dead Friend Sarah, but if you’re a fully vested member in the grammar police as I am, you’ll have to decide whether the amateurish style is too much of a distraction for you to fully enjoy the book.
 
Recommended, with reservations. | Andrea Braun

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