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Reviewed by Leonard William Smuts for Readers' Favorite
The tragic events of the past can make an indelible imprint on our lives, often returning to haunt us in later years. Through A Study in Terminal, Kara Linaburg takes a searching look at those aspects of life and death. This gripping tale follows the life of nineteen-year-old Sean Brogan from his troubled childhood, through his parent’s divorce, to the suicide of his caring mother when he was just ten years old. The trauma remained unresolved. His unhappiness is compounded by the poor relationship with his hard-working father. Equally disturbed, his father must also deal with deep emotions – for the moment drowned in alcohol and remorse. Sean struggles with his demons throughout his school years and joins a teen gang, where he finds a home and recognition of a sort. He is also a budding author and a distant relative of a famous detective. He is elevated to hero status after he discovers the body of a murdered woman and leads the police to her killer. As the tenth anniversary of his mother’s suicide approaches, Sean returns to their old family home to find closure – even if this means following her tortured path to its untimely end. He encounters some of his childhood friends and finally confronts his feelings of anger and guilt, still troubled by the same dark secrets as they are. The truth is finally revealed, but not before a gang member arrives to seek revenge.
The complex issues of life, love, alienation, guilt and ultimately death intertwine in this compelling novel. The characters are unusual and fascinating while the action is riveting. Through well-integrated flashbacks to Sean’s early life, Kara Linaburg builds a vivid picture of a troubled soul who has to come to grips with his feelings or reach his own point of termination. Then there is the age-old clash of right versus wrong and issues of conscience to be resolved. Sean ponders whether there is a God and whether God actually cares. He must decide whether he, in turn, can care for somebody again. I particularly liked the handwritten notes from Sean to his deceased mother that introduce some of the chapters. They are an inspired touch, a poignant reminder of Sean’s inner turmoil, while cleverly setting the scene as the story unfolds. Ultimately we must not fight the things that heal us, such as forgiveness and letting go of the past. A Study in Terminal is filled with profound insights into the human condition. While exploring the depths of despair, it provides hope for reconciliation. It is an outstanding novel and highly recommended.