First, a disclaimer. I love Tami Hoag. My Mom introduced me to her years ago and I've read every book she's written, always satisfied.
Unfortunately, Deeper than the Dead didn't quite do it for me.
The concept was cool. As the author note explains in the first couple of pages, the book is set in history - 1985. I'm an 80s kid, so the references to pop culture were a welcome addition to the story line. Also interesting, was the lack of forensic technology, forcing the characters to solve the crime with old fashioned police work.
Maybe that's why parts of the novel seemed to drag on. In today's world, we're used to gadgets and gizmos that help the police understand the crime scene faster, often resulting in a more efficient resolution. DNA technology, fingerprint databases and a whole host of other CSI-style tools were not yet fully developed in 1985 - which slowed the police work, and the pacing, considerably. Hoag did do a great job of infusing some of that technological gap into the story, though.
My primary issue has to do with character development - and in this book, there are many people to keep track of. Four kids, one with evil tendencies, a teacher, an FBI agent, a rogue cop, several parents, each with their own oddities and motives, a few missing women, and a sidekick for the protagonist. Several of these characters had point of view scenes (more than 6) and I found myself getting lost and never actually connecting with any of them. In particular, the youth point of view scenes seemed unrealistic, especially for the mid 80s.
The romance thread was also weak, and in my opinion, not believable. The relationship between Anne and Vince developed quickly and because the author had to tend to so many points of view, I never had an opportunity to feel their love blossom, let alone grow into what it ends up being.
Maybe I've been spoiled by Gretchen Lowell (the incredible serial killer in Chelsea Cain's book, HeartSick) but as far as serial killers go, the See-No-Evil murderer didn't get my heart racing. He was also a bit predictable - as was much of the plot. I had a good idea of the killer's identity early in the book, despite a whole rash of red herrings. And many of those sub plots were never actually resolved, which kind of ticked me off.
For the most part, Deeper than the Dead is a smooth read. Hoag can write, to which a list of #1 New York Times bestselling titles can attest, but there were some point of view violations that pulled me right out of the story, and the novel's climax wasn't nearly climactic enough. I raced through the final pages, mostly because I just wanted to finish the book and move on to something new.
Like Sweet Heart, the second book in Chelsea Cain's series about Gretchen.