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Blackout By Jan Christensen

IN THE September 20 ISSUE

FROM THE 2014 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andSandra Murphy
SECTIONS

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to enter to win a copy of Blackout at the end of this review, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL.

A young, battered woman walks down the highway, hoping for a ride but where will she say she’s headed? When a car does stop, she isn’t sure she should get in but what other option is there? The man asks her name and then she realizes she doesn’t know what it is.

That’s the beginning of the story, or the end of one and the start of another. The girl gives herself the name, Alice Strong. Her new life includes renting a room from an older woman, Hannah, friendship with Donald, the man who gave the ride to California and a job at the Merry Hills Nursing Home. She’s an aide, tasked with dressing, cleaning and feeding residents, turning them every two hours to prevent bed sores, and encouraging them to participate in activities like bingo or “sing-along.” book

Some of the patients are mobile but not as lucid as they once were, some are in wheelchairs and a few are paralyzed or too frail to get out of bed. Betty, the nursing administrator, has her own mother at the facility. Betty Senior’s stroke left her paralyzed from the neck down.

One of the facility favorites is Lettie. She’s a former math teacher who wanders the halls and asks, “Do you know me?” of everyone she meets. Her husband, Thomas, is devoted to her. As Alice gets to know the residents and other employees, she’s feeling better but doesn’t admit her amnesia. What if they thought she was crazy and put her in a home or mental hospital?

Nancy shows her where everything is and gives her basic training. Alice is then paired with Jenny. The death of a resident sparks a memory for Alice–she thinks it’s of her grandmother, Nana, but nothing more comes to mind.
Deaths occur in nursing homes, of course, but at Merry Hills, they seem to be too frequent. Two of the bodies had their arms crossed in front of them as they would be in a casket, not something a dying patient would do themselves. Betty is convinced there’s a killer in the home, but is it a mercy killing or something more sinister? Even her police officer nephew, Jarod, doesn’t believe her.

One death happens during the annual inspection. Management bonuses are based on the inspection scores and Betty’s disappointed her score isn’t higher. It’s due to the number of bed sores found on the patients. Either aides are not turning the patients as often as they should and are lying on the documentation or there are other factors to consider.

With each traumatic encounter, Alice remembers more, until she decides this is not her first blackout. Which is scarier? To remember or to not know? Either can be dangerous.

There are sub-plots as well. Margaret in the kitchen is a good employee but a terrible boss, Nancy has a secret of her own, a newspaper reporter brings the unnatural deaths to light, Donald and Alice pass friendship into something a bit more and Betty’s love life sparks with Thomas, Lettie’s husband. When is it okay for a spouse to move on? Lettie has been at the home for over a year and Thomas misses her companionship. Betty doesn’t date married men, but does Thomas still count as married?

Each memory Alice has is worse than the one before. Surely, her whole life couldn’t have been like that? She can’t be sure until it’s all figured out.

I did sift through the suspects (and included Alice) and guessed the right one as the killer, but not the motive or the ending. Although I learned a lot more than I care to know about nursing homes, the information was scattered throughout the book and didn’t interfere with the plot as the reader learns about the facility along with Alice. The facility is shown in a good light but also with realism.

This was a satisfying read I found hard to put down. I do hope there will be a sequel. After all, readers will want to find out what happens to Alice.

To enter to win a copy of Blackout simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Blackout,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 27, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section. You can also find some short stories there written by Jan.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 bobbi a. chukran
Twitter: @bchukran
September 20, 2014 at 4:52pm

Intriguing review, Sandra and Jan. Looking forward to reading it.
A recent post from bobbi a. chukran: Short Stories–How I’m Inspired, Where I Get My Ideas and What-notMy Profile

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2 Shirley September 20, 2014 at 9:27pm

Blackout sounds like a great read. I especially like to read books that use nursing homes as background since we do volunteer work at a nursing home.

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3 Earl Staggs September 21, 2014 at 7:56am

Everything Jan Christensen writes is hard to put down and even after you’ve finished reading, her characters are hard to forget. BLACKOUT is no exception, and it is heartily recommended.
A recent post from Earl Staggs: AN INTERVIEW WITH TALL CHAMBERSMy Profile

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4 Lorie
Twitter: @mysteryrat
September 30, 2014 at 10:37am

We have a winner
Lorie Ham, KRL Pulisher

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