by Marianna Boncek
Genre: Literary Fiction / Mystery
Print Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Reviewed by Audrey Davis
A cautionary portrait of the rumors and secrets of small-town life
Arthur Moran, unassuming police chief of a small New York town in the 1950s, is thrust head-first into chaos when called upon to solve the murder of a young girl from a nearby isolated religious group, the Diamonds.
“‘A murder, Art. Have you investigated a murder? This isn’t like Paul Hickham’s cattle being stole in the middle of the night. This isn’t Chris Boughman’s kid setting fires to abandoned barns…’”
As the case darkens and more information unravels, Art’s ambition gets the better of him, unfortunately at the expense of those he cherishes. But soon, the murder case is overshadowed and forgotten.
Forty years later, ghostly doors are re-opened and new evidence is brought to light, and Art must learn to re-evaluate what he thought he knew.
Marianna Boncek’s Diamond City leaves no stone unturned. This literary mystery provides an inkling of how the story could end, but details are presented only as they become relevant—a slow but tantalizing intravenous drip of information. Each chapter leaves the reader with no guarantee of a positive or happy outcome, so we’re eager to keep turning pages to see which direction we’re headed.
“He felt like a tree stripped of its bark, his fresh, green pith poking out with no protection.”
The descriptions in this story really stand out. The reader has a clear image of their surroundings at any moment, often including a scent or a sound to complete the picture. Emotions, in particular, are effortlessly expressed through whichever channel is most fitting for each character, whether it be thoughts, actions, or otherwise. This difference in communication works well for the wide cast of characters, adding individualism in the face of small-town expectations.
“Art realized she knew. How she had found out, he couldn’t be sure, but she knew. He could tell by the way she moved around the kitchen, angry, betrayed.”
The characters elevate this novel to where it is. Each character that the protagonist interacts with is given backstory, however brief—the undertaker’s wife, the librarian, the cemetery groundskeeper—each expressing some sort of growth within the span of time they’re “on screen,” whether positive or negative.
In this town of less than 2,000 people, the neighbors know each other by name, have known each other for years, and yet still gain satisfaction by passing judgements on each other based on physical appearances and their own personal yet differing ideals for their shared town. With these judgements sometimes comes a snobbish attitude and casual racism, making the townsfolk act as some of Art’s biggest obstacles in his search for answers.
“It would only be a short matter of time before the tongues of Fosterdale would wag with speculation.”
Self-discovery, practicality, and trust play key roles for the people of Fosterdale. From the pacing of the story down to the characters’ palpable paranoia and tension, this novel is wonderful for realistic fiction fans looking for a gripping, emotional tale.
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