Recently, I had the great joy of being able to read not one, but two of Erik Therme's books and he even put up with me long enough to give us a peek behind the author's curtain—see below the review for a special author interview!
If you missed my review and interview with Erik on his book Resthaven click here.
Mortom centers around Andy who was surprised to learn he inherited his recently deceased cousin’s house and assets. He was never all that close to Craig and didn’t even attend the funeral, but who’s going to say no to some free stuff, right?
Craig’s unexpected death was deemed accidental, but things are already fishy when Andy and his sister Kate show up to the house and the first thing they find is a dead rat with a key and a secret message shoved in its mouth.
It seems that Craig is not quite finished with them yet—there’s a mysterious trail of clues that Andy will have to solve and follow if he wants to find out what Craig really left him. Kate thinks there is more going on: there’s a little girl next door and an angry old man who seem to hold one key to the puzzle, and Craig’s mom definitely knows more than she’s letting on.
Is it a conspiracy? Is the whole tiny town of Mortom out to get them? What’s with the trail of clues? Did Craig really leave some treasure at the end? Or is it something worse? And why did he leave it for Andy?
Andy focuses in on finding the clues—he’s convinced there’s something hidden at the end of this that is worth having, that Craig wouldn’t set up this elaborate scavenger hunt without there being something to win at the end.
But Kate isn’t so sure and although she isn’t feeling well, she starts doing some digging of her own, asking questions about Craig to his neighbors, to their aunt, and she starts to uncover something with much bigger repercussions than just the silly material gain that Andy was hoping for. Now, if only she could get Andy to pay attention!
This is a book that keeps on twisting! Once you think you’ve figured it out, there’s another twist, another surprise waiting around the corner.
I was interested in the polar opposition between Andy and Kate: Andy is so focused in on the small details, on following this trail of clues that he just can’t wrap his head around the bigger picture. Kate, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about some silly scavenger hunt, but winds up getting sucked into the town of Mortom and her family’s past in a way she never expected.
Craig is really an enigma throughout the book; I got a sense that he wanted to create this larger-than-life mysterious persona that would almost haunt Andy. But though you will find out the truth behind what drives Craig, I’m not sure we ever find out who Craig truly is.
Creepy old houses in small towns where everyone seems to be watching, jaunts through graveyards at midnight, and scavenger hunts with seemingly no end—this is a speedy read with a lot to unpack!
And now for a continuation of my interview with author Erik Therme!
Shelf Stalker: What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Erik Therme: Bridge Daughter, by Jim Nelson. I don’t know how this book hasn’t sold a million copies. It’s a beautiful, haunting tale of an alternate America, where first-born children are carriers of their parents’ “real” children. I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling anything, but it’s one of the most original tales I’ve read in a long time.
SS: If you had a superpower, what would it be?
ET: I could always relate to Spider-Man, as he’s just a geeky kid with real life problems. And what’s the best way to escape problems? Walking away on ceilings and walls. Ha!
SS: Any story behind the origin of this book? Any relatives leaving you cryptic messages with their estates?
ET: The town of Mortom is based on Farmington, Iowa, where my father grew up, and where I spent many summers of my childhood. The original draft was heavily influenced by Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and went through numerous drafts before it became what it is today. As of right now, I haven’t heard about any estates from deceased relatives, but I also haven't checked my mailbox today . . .
SS: Andy is so completely obsessed with solving the puzzles, the materialistic side of it all, and is so intent that there is something at the end of it for him that he isn’t able to see the bigger picture. On the other hand, Kate isn’t really interested in the puzzle at all. Once she gets involved, it’s in the human element, piecing together the people surrounding their cousin and his death. Their focus is so different and they constantly clash throughout the book. Is this just sibling rivalry? Gender commentary? What were your thoughts on developing these characters?
ET: The main intent for the constant arguing (between Andy and Kate) was to show that Andy is so fixated on solving the riddle that he has no regard for anything—or anyone—around him. In retrospect, I probably should have scaled the bickering down a bit, as some readers have commented it felt unnecessary and bogged down the story.
SS: What was the most difficult scene to write?
ET: I always struggle writing “action” scenes. The finale in Mortom took a fair amount of tweaking before I was satisfied, and it took me forever to write the dog scene in Resthaven. One of the golden rules of writing is “show—don’t tell,” but whenever I write action-heavy scenes, it always feels like forced description, and I’m never fully satisfied with the end result.
SS: In this book (and Resthaven too) there are definite blurred lines about who the “bad guy” is. There are multiple characters who do bad things, make bad decisions, and don’t seem to have the best motives, including the main character, Andy. What was your thought behind creating characters in shades of grey?
ET: There’s no question I love blurring the lines between right and wrong. I think it’s because I don’t believe anyone is inherently good or evil, and I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s motivations and the choices they make. Life is complicated and messy, and even the best of us have dark moments. Do the ends justify the means? Do two wrongs make a right? These are the types of questions that drive my characters to do what they do.
SS: And finally, are you working on anything new currently?
ET: My third novel, Roam, is going through the editing process and will be released in February 2017. The story follows a young man who believes he’s being haunted by his dead father, and the only way he can redeem himself is by “saving” someone else. It’s a very character-driven story and very different from Mortom and Resthaven. Readers can follow me on Amazon to be notified when the book is released.
Get your copies of Resthaven and Mortom
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Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.