Title: Deadly Distrust
Author: Mary Schaller
Reviewed by: Joseph Scalise
Pacific Book Review
While at first glance Deadly Distrust, the new book by author Mary Schaller, seems like a run-of-the-mill crime thriller, it is actually much more complex than it first appears.
The story opens in September of 1979 and follows two college students, Gina and Elly, who have moved into an apartment in San Francisco. As we explore their lives, and the lives around them, the world gets steadily bigger, introducing more characters through each chapter. However, when Gina, turns up dead, poisoned by a mushroom toxin, there are plenty of potential suspects and it is up to Elly, along with Gina’s cop brother, Todd, to piece it all together.
Deadly Distrust moves at a quick pace that keeps the questions coming at each turn. In addition, it also chooses to tell the story in a unique way. Rather than opening on a body like so many crime-thrillers, the first body does not appear until a quarter of the way in. This is just one example of how Schaller plays with expectations. Another interesting aspect is the tonality of the story itself. While some texts will stray away from darker themes, this story chooses to embrace them. It is a book about secrets, dysfunction, and how you can never really know a person.
In that way, it works very well; taking the pleasant backdrop of the San Francisco Bay Area and juxtaposing it with something much more devious. Schaller fully embraces that theme, and uses the contrast to tackle some heavy themes, ranging from infidelity to rape to murder. This is an adult book, meant for mature audiences, and it hits on that level quite well. One of the only things holding Deadly Distrust back is the writing itself. Though the narrative and characters are woven quite well, the writing does appear very basic — “Gina gently touched her neck to see if it was still in one piece” – at times. This, combined with poor or elementary word choice, can take away and distract from the story at certain times. However, the plot and characters remain strong.
Overall, Deadly Distrust is an ensemble crime-thriller. A heavy story that winds us through twists and turns from the first body all the way until the rather unexpected ending. Nothing is what it seems in this world, and the book serves to remind us of that time and time again. Though it has its flaws, Deadly Distrust is a solid, very quick read that does a good job for anyone seeking out a more serious adult crime thriller.