Letters from the Dead

A Mystery/Suspense Novel

Fiction - Mystery - General
304 Pages
Reviewed on 03/15/2013
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

"Letters from the Dead" opens in a nursing home where Mary Jane MacIntyre is reminiscing about her sister and gazing at the picture of herself, her sister and a young man at the beach many years before. George R. Hopkins's book is not just Mary Jane's story, however; this is a mystery tale with a crazed serial killer and the dedicated police officer, Detective Thomas Cavanaugh, who must find him. This search is not solely a professional obligation as the killer has also targeted everyone Detective Cavanaugh cares about. The murders revolve around a small private school on Staten Island. One of the students, a young woman, killed herself, and a young man, also a student, was blamed for causing her death by bullying. Cavanaugh's role in blocking an indictment against the young man led to his reassignment to Staten Island, where, ironically, the murders take place.

This is an exciting mystery that offers plenty of red herrings to mystery fans as they watch Cavanaugh and his step-brother, Jack Bennis, try to find the killer. Mystery buffs will also enjoy Cavanaugh's habit of quoting Charlie Chan throughout the work. There is a lot of action and entwined plots to keep them thinking and a number of possible suspects to consider. Cavanaugh is an intriguing character, one who I'd like to see in other mystery tales as well. His step-brother, Jack Bennis, ex-soldier and current Jesuit priest, is also compelling. Their interaction throughout the work is fun to watch. I recommend this book -- it's a lot of fun.

Maria Beltran

Letters from the Dead" is one of George Hopkins's most haunting novels. Tom Cavanaugh, an aging detective, has a serial killer case in his hands. His quest leads him to a priest, Jack Bennis, who is involved in a relationship with a prostitute and a woman, Mary Jane McIntyre, who is in possession of a series of letters from her dead sister. If these letters are made public, they will expose the secret lives of Jack Bennis and Tom Cavanaugh that both of them do not know themselves. Calling himself Lex Talionis, the serial killer murders people who he believes drove his daughter to commit suicide. After each murder, he leaves behind a note in Latin in an attempt to mislead the detective. These characters find their lives intertwined in a series of most interesting twists.

This mystery murder story has a great potential to grab the reader's undivided interest. A serial killer on the loose in Staten Island, a forbidden love, an aging detective, and the most important element, letters that come from the dead. All these come together to create a story packed with action and suspense. The beauty of "Letters from the Dead" is in the plot itself and the inner struggles that its characters are going through. George Hopkins's characters seem like real people who are trapped in a series of events that will put any person through a severe emotional and moral test. What makes it more compelling is that this is also a story of love and revenge, two emotions that oppose each other that will drive the characters to a situation where it becomes a matter of life and death. It is a revelation of how the human spirit endures. The plot of "Letters from the Dead" is very interesting but the twists are even more exciting.

Dr. Oliva Dsouza

Tom Cavanaugh is moved to the laid back Staten Island Police force as he refused to bow down to pressure from the political bosses to cover up the actual reasons for the suicide of Susan Lewis and make a scapegoat out of Mark Anderson. At the same time, after their adventure in Cuba, Tom's half brother has taken a leave of absence from his duties as a priest to figure out his calling in life. Father Jack Bennis also lands up in Staten island with Maria Isabelle, the nurse they rescued from Cuba. He takes up a teaching job at the Garfield Academy and soon things start taking a vicious turn. There is a serial murderer loose who seems to have an axe to grind with Tom. He goes on a killing spree, leaving bizarre clues mocking the police to catch him. Maria takes up a job at the home where she meets an old lady, Mary Jane McIntyre who has a secret that she desperately wants to hide and share at the same time. How is Mary Jane related to all that is happening and are the bunch of letters that she guards with her life and soul as important as she makes them out to be? What is the killer's motive and will Tom and Jack be able to catch the killer and crack this case?

"Letters from the Dead" by George R. Hopkins is a thriller that entangles you in the web of intermingling story tracks and keeps you guessing till the end. A clever plot that keeps the reader engrossed throughout and leaves one wanting more. The best part of the story is the way that Father Jack Bennis logically arrives at the identity of the killer. Overall, an excellent book that is highly recommended for its plot and wonderfully crafted characters.