Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review of true crime story Death Dealer by Kate Clark Flora

Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice

Reviewed by Lisa Haselton

Maria Tanasichuk vanishes without a trace from her home in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada. 

It was a cold January in 2003 - the ground was frozen and covered in snow - but it wasn't until a heavy winter storm in late January that David Tanasichuk reported his wife had been missing for a couple of weeks.

What prompted him to report her missing after such a long period? Where was Maria? Why hadn't anyone heard from her? These questions are only the tip of the (forgive the pun) iceberg.

Author Kate Flora has seen a lot of the criminal element through her years with the Maine attorney general's office. She uses that experience to bring Maria Tanasichuk to life for the reader. The story is true, and Flora spent extensive time interviewing law enforcement, game wardens, rescue personnel, and those who knew Maria Tanasichuk. She spent hours reading court files and transcripts and then wrote Maria's story in such a way that the reader can't help but feel like she was part of the story.

I have to admit I read true crime regularly years ago and then reached a point where although I loved learning about the procedures that brought closure to a case, the dark psychology behind the antagonists started reaching too far into me, so I had to stop. Dark gritty fiction I could do, but I had to stop the true crime reading for a while.

So this book is the first in a couple of decades and I was a bit nervous about what I would find. Flora shares a lot about the personnel who searched for Maria and who were actively involved in her case. She, of course, didn't know Maria, but was able to bring her to life on the page through stories recounted by friends, family, and neighbors. I enjoyed becoming part of the 'search for Maria' and reacted quite similarly to the people involved when Maria was found. It was quite a moment that leapt off the page due to the compassion behind the writing.

Flora’s 12 books include the Thea Kozak mysteries and Joe Burgess gritty police procedurals. Her true crime, Finding Amy, has been optioned for a movie. She spent 5 years researching and writing Death Dealer. When she’s not writing, or teaching at Grub Street in Boston, she’s in her garden, waging a constant battle against critters, pests, and her husband’s lawnmower. 

I was pulled into Death Dealer immediately as the opening scene really reaches out from the pages and got my heart racing -- I empathized with the character and felt myself getting cold (not as cold as he was, but still!) -- thankfully I just had to pull a blanket over myself to warm up. I consider this a highly recommended read for those who enjoy true crime.

If you’re interested in learning more about Kate, her non-fiction, or her fiction, visit her website, or check out her posts on the Maine Crime Writers blog. 

Release date: September 9, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-88282-476-5
Publisher: New Horizon Press

(I received an ARC of this book with no promise of a review of any kind.)

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