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Synopsis:

Family is not always what it seems.

Liam Dwyer is a forensics specialist and his older brother, Sean, a homicide detective on the same Philadelphia police force. When Liam arrives at the scene of a murder in a dingy motel, he discovers, to his horror, that the victim is a woman for whom he cared deeply and with whom he had an extramarital affair. Her mutilated body has been staged in a deliberate manner. Liam is terrified by the fact that he has absolutely no memory of where he was or what he did on the night of the murder. He woke up in his bathtub — a place he would ordinarily never be because of the childhood trauma he suffered that left him terrified of both water and bathtubs.

As always, Liam looks to Sean for support and answers. Sean assures Liam that they will find the killer, despite the fact that the indisputable evidence they uncover, including DNA and fingerprints, incriminates only one person: Liam.

Liam is desperate to learn the truth, even if it means finding out that he is capable of committing such a heinous crime. But deep down, he knows that he is not. He is convinced that someone is framing him. But who would do such a thing? And why?

When additional killings and Liam’s investigation point toward another suspect, he refuses to believe it. Would his own brother set him up to be convicted of murders he did not commit? Is Sean actually a monster, capable of such unspeakable violence?

Review:

Author Matthew Farrell
is a promising debut novel from Matthew Farrell.

As young boys, Sean and Liam survived traumas that no child should endure. After the death of their father, their mother’s mental instability nearly cost Liam his life. However, older brother Sean saved him, creating an unbreakable bond between the brothers. Liam has always looked up to Sean and sought his guidance. Sean, never able to sustain a relationship with a woman, has been Liam’s rock, the charismatic leader in which Liam and fellow members of the force put their trust.

The story starts strong with Liam unable to remember where he went or what he did during the prior evening, and then being summoned to the site of the horrid murder. He is shocked when he arrives on scene and discovers that the victim is none other than Kerri, the woman with whom he had an affair. Liam loved Kerri, but he has committed to trying to make his marriage to Vanessa work. They are attending counseling and Vanessa appears fully invested in their relationship. Aside from Vanessa, only Sean and his partner, Don, knew about Liam’s relationship with Kerri. In the wake of her death and his inability to remember the events of the night she was killed, Liam of course turns to Sean for help. Sean assures Liam that he can rely on Sean. “We only have each other, Liam. So because of that, we only have each other to count on. I’ll be there for you, and you be there for me. Got it?”

The first half of the book suffers from problems common with freshman authors. The dialogue is stilted and unnatural. Readers unfamiliar with police procedures will likely neither notice nor be bothered by the irregular manner in which some aspects are portrayed. A few plot points are wholly implausible.

“I’m very aware that the evidence points to me, and I’m not lying to you when I say I can’t remember what happened that night. All I know is how I felt about her, and I can’t reconcile those feelings with what we saw at the Tiger hotel. I can’t make that leap. So it has to be someone else. It has to be.” ~~ Liam

However, tenacity pays off for Farrell’s readers because Farrell pulls the book out of its early slump to deliver a second half that is fast-paced, with surprising plot twists. When Liam’s fingerprints and DNA are found at the murder scene, and he discovers his bloody clothes in the trunk of his vehicle, his panic is palpable and credibly depicted by Farrell. Liam wracks his brain in an attempt to remember the events of the evening, and worries that he is losing his mind. Worse, he confronts the question of whether he could have committed such an unthinkable crime. He is convinced that he does not have the capacity — even in some form of altered state — to be violent, much less a killer. Through it all, he leans on Sean, telling him, “I think I’m being framed, Sean. It’s the only explanation.” He shares details of his own investigation, as he frantically tries to gather evidence of his innocence.

When mounting evidence points toward him, Liam runs, but Sean tries to convince him to surrender. Farrell believably details both Liam’s increasingly desperate mental state, as well as the breakdown in trust between the brothers when Liam discovers evidence that points directly at Sean. Forced to consider that his own brother has set him up to take the fall, Farrell inserts heart-breaking and shocking details that propel the story forward and heighten reader interest.

As Sean gradually unravels, Farrell capably takes readers on Liam’s pulse-pounding and heartbreaking journey to the truth. The result is a thriller that is, overall, enjoyable, and may inspire readers to ponder their own familial relationships after Farrell reveals the brothers’ ultimate fate.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one electronic copy of What Have You Done free of charge from the author via Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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