You know those stories that stick with you? That unexplainably seem to have more soul than most of what you read?
A while back I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of A Study in Terminal, by Kara Linaburg, which officially released today! The story is well-paced and enjoyable to read, but its strength lies in the depth of its themes. Instead of playing to the crowd and becoming white noise, ASIT is an authentic story that depicts the brokenness of our world without wallowing in despair. The themes of redemption and healing will stick with me for a while.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Sean Brogan has spent most of his life running from a past he can never escape. Emotionally abandoned by his alcoholic father and secretly blaming himself for his mother’s death, the scars he carries are ones no one can see.
On the anniversary of the day that changed his life forever, Sean flees New York City on his 1965 Triumph Bonneville, hoping to face the demons that plague his nightmares. He plans to slip into the sleepy town of Lake Fort, West Virginia as quietly as he did ten years before, but his life has never gone as planned. Sean never expects to see Rina, the blue-haired sister of his childhood best friend who makes it her mission to rescue the lost things. A hopeful dreamer who sits on the roof and watches the sunset, she represents all the things that he has lost.
As Sean spends time in the lakeside town that has haunted his dreams since he was a little boy, he has no choice but to face the pain that he buried from a life cut off too soon. In the blink of an eye, with a gun to his head, Sean is forced to confront what it means to fight for the will to live when your world has gone dark.
An anthem for those of us who have been left behind, “A Study in Terminal” is a vulnerable story about the human condition that reminds us that to beat your past, you first must turn around and face it.
The main character Sean Brogan was a fun and original character. I enjoyed his trademark sarcasm and learning more about his backstory. I didn’t connect as much with the supporting cast, but they were still well developed and distinctive.
ASIT is a very thematically driven story, and while that makes some novels less enjoyable, it worked well in this case. One of my favourite song lyrics is that “the shadow proves the sunshine” (from a song of the same name by Switchfoot), and the quote really seems to fit ASIT. The story discusses some dark topics, but they’re always used to show the light, which I really appreciated.
The story also dealt with issues of faith and questions about God. I’ll be honest that explicitly Christian themes often make me uncomfortable in fiction, not because I disagree with the messages (I am a follower of Christ), but because the themes often feel heavy-handed and preachy and drive people away instead of welcoming them in. ASIT steered clear of that, and the themes really fit the characters and the backstory, rather than feeling tacked on.
The plot largely centers around Sean’s past catching up to him, which was interesting. I think the plot was probably the weakest area for me, since I couldn’t really tell where the book was going for the first half. The story still held my attention during that, but it was hard to guess what was to come. In the second half it picked up a lot and I really enjoyed the plot elements from there.
If you’re looking for a clean and authentic story, I would definitely recommend A Study in Terminal! It isn’t a perfect story (I have yet to find one), but it’s well worth reading.