Author: Gloria Galloway
Author: Gloria Galloway
As the debut novel in Gloria Galloway's Dead By My Side opens, Detective Anthony (Tony) Camarelli of the Sacramento Sheriff's Department along with his attractive partner, Julia (Jules) Reynolds are assigned to watch a snitch in the quiet small river town of Hood with a population of less than three hundred. Both didn't expect much action and even planned to alternate taking naps. At two in the morning they decide to call it a night and to pick up coffee and cinnamon buns at their favorite haunt, Little Italy Bakery. While Julia goes into the bakery without her bullet-proof vest, Tony hears a shotgun blast and sees Julia splayed against the double-glass-door entry. Tony kills the gunman, however, unfortunately, Julia never makes it. Fast forward a week later, Tony, who is still grief-stricken with the loss of the woman he loved and worked alongside for twelve years, is astonished and jolted when Julia reappears as a ghost and carries on her old habit of bugging him with her verbal diarrhea, as she did when she was alive.
Tony returns to work and his first assignment involves the horrifically brutal murder of Janice Hoffman, a mother of twin baby girls who is found bludgeoned to death in her bed. Initially, it looks like a robbery gone bad, however, on closer scrutiny, we learn that the victim's husband is a notorious philanderer who is one of the biggest used car dealers in Sacramento. Although there were no leads in the investigation of the murder of Mrs. Hoffman, incertitude crops up when, shortly after her death, Mr. Hoffman marries the nanny of his two children, Suzan Shelby. Apparently, prior to working as a nanny, Suzan worked as a receptionist at one of Mr. Hoffman's dealerships. We now ask ourselves was it really a robbery gone bad, a staged robbery or did Mr. Hoffman waste his wife. While the probe continues, Julia resolves to offer a helping hand to Tony and together they embark on a quest in getting to the bottom of the murder of Mrs. Hoffman.
As the investigation of the murder of Mrs. Hoffman moves along, another sinister homicide occurs when the body of a young white female in her early twenties is found hideously murdered by a “monster from someone's worst nightmare.” Gathering some of the best law enforcement minds in the business, the authorities including the FBI are faced with little to go on as there are very few clues to crack open the cases. Astonishingly, this murder is in turn followed by a series of others where, as was the case with the young white female, the victims are found with orthopedic stockings on their legs. It would appear that we are now confronted with a serial killer who doesn't seem to fit into any criminal profile and who enjoys taunting the local police enforcement as well as the FBI.
Galloway has certainly succeeded in crafting a haunting and chilling debut with a heady mix of suspense, touching characters, and even at times quirky humor with the bantering between Tony and Julia. Succinctly, what we have here is a thoroughly upsetting yarn that firmly exposes the workings of a crazed mind in all of its complexity while retaining the page-turning pleasures of a genuine thriller with a paranormal twist. Moreover, her masterstroke is that she deftly focuses attention on what is about to happen rather than harping on the past-something indispensable to advancing the story and increasing the reader's curiosity. Just as the law enforcement officers are clueless, so too are her readers, which commit them to finding out what happens next and leaving them constantly tense on the edge of their seats.
Another plus is the straightforward style that moves the story along at the quick pace essential to a good thriller. It is also apparent that Galloway has done her homework, as I detected from reading about her on the last page that states that the novel came together after extensive research of police procedure, crime scene investigation and studies of the criminal mind. As further mentioned, she collaborated with experts in the field, including a crime scene investigator and a former deputy coroner of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.