Book Review: The Fate of Katherine Carr ****
George Gates is a former travel writer and investigator of historical mysteries who has retreated to safe, superficial newspaper writing after his young son was kidnaped and murdered. He then gets sucked into the mystery of what happened to a local writer (Katherine Carr) who walked out of her house one day in 1987 and vanished, leaving behind a mysterious story that seems to relate to her own life. He also becomes involved (both professionally and emotionally) with a 12-year-old girl dying of progeria (the "aging" disease), with whom he reads through the story, attempting to find clues to what happened to Katherine.
I think of this book as structured like a spiral, going from Gates' telling of the story to a man he meets on a cruise ship, to his investigation of Katherine's disappearance, to Katherine's story from 20 years before, and back. On the way it provides an interesting meditation on the effects of loss and of crime (especially unsolved crime) on its victims; not only has Gates lost his son, but Katherine had become a virtual recluse before her disappearance due to a vicious beating she had suffered a few years before. The ending is rather ambiguous, though, and the whole book seems unfocused - possibly a necessary effect of its structure and content, but that may account for the lack of complete satisfaction on my part.
P.S. As with other books I've seen or read lately, the cover bugs the hell out of me. It appears to be a young (pre-adolescent) girl, though it's hard to tell since the close-up cuts off most of the face. The only character who fits that description is dying of premature aging and wheelchair bound. Why is it considered so unacceptable in some circles to have a cover that bears some relation to the content of the book?