Mortom: population 986.
On the outskirts of town, 33-year-old Craig Moore is found drowned in the lake. A loner and town eccentric, few attend the funeral.
One week later Andy Crowl arrives in Mortom, still stunned by his cousin’s death and equally confused why everything was left to him. The two hadn’t spoken in years and shared little outside of fierce childhood competition.
But Craig hardly did him a favor. The estate amounts to little more than a drained bank account and a dilapidated property overridden with junk. When Andy finds a dead rat under the refrigerator with a key in its mouth, he thinks it’s some sort of sick joke. Then he finds the letter left by Craig, written two days before his death … detailing the rules of “the game.”
When he's not at his computer, he can be found cheering on his oldest daughter's volleyball team, or chilling on the PS3 with his 11-year-old. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa--one of only 7 places in the world the UNESCO has certified as a "City of Literature."
Find Erik Therme
A few months ago, Erik Therme approached me about reviewing his debut novel. After reading the synopsis I was a little leery. I wasn't sure what genre this fell into. Was it horror? Was is mystery/suspense? Either way I took the dive in. After finishing, I still have no idea what genre to place this read in, but that's okay, because I was hooked! As you folks know I work with a lot of debut authors, and not all of them produce fantastic works on their first journey into the literary world. Not all of them are Erik Therme though!
Before I start raving, I would like to get a few of the negative aspects I found out of the way. When if comes to reviewing a novel, I very seldom read other reviews before I post mine. I don't want anyone else's thoughts to change the way I felt about a novel. In this instance I wanted to read a few reviews before I posted my thoughts just to see if I was wrong on a couple of things. After checking out some others, my few negatives seem to be across the board.
When it came to the characters in Mortom, I was both impressed and disappointed. There is little to no character development throughout the novel. Andy, our MC, starts out as a paranoid, negative, rude guy and actually ends the novel the same way... except maybe a little more paranoid, but with good reason. Kate is insecure, unnecessarily rude, and emotional beyond belief (though the reason why may have been answered in the end). While I liked their characters as people, I just didn't understand or relate to them in any capacity.
I know that this novel is a work of fiction so this may be particular critique may just need to be thrown out the window, but there were a lot of things that just didn't add up in Mortom. I won't go into much because of spoilers, but just some of the 'whats' and 'whys' did not fit the story. For instance, why wouldn't an aunt and uncle go to their nephews funeral? Better question, why didn't Kate? Mary was an interesting character who very clearly had a lot going on, but until the end she didn't see all that upset for a woman who just lost her only son. Per the game? I just don't know that all of those clues are feasible. And even if they were to have been, I think we really need to discuss how messed up in the head Craig must have been. Seriously. Who does some of those things? And for what? In the end was it worth it? No.
My last, but probably biggest negative aspect of the novel was the lack of technology. Now I totally understand that maybe Therme was wanting to go for a timeless quality here that could have taken place at any time, except he made one mistake: listing Craig's age and birth year. With the dates we are given we see this this story takes place within the last decade. A decade full of internet, cell phones, DVDs, digital cameras, etc. Why is it that neither Andy nor Kate have a cell phone? And doesn't anyone in the city of Mortom have access to Google? I feel like a good chunk of Andy's plight could have been made a bit easier with a simple internet connection. Maybe Mortom was like my hometown and there was no internet available? Who knows, I just know that the entire town seemed to be living like it was still 1945. It was a little discouraging at times.
Okay we're out of the negatives now. Let me rave on some positives, because at this point you are probably thinking I hated the novel. Well, I will very happily tell you that I did not hate this novel in any capacity. In fact, I had a horrible time with trying to put it down. I couldn't stop reading until I unraveled the mystery for myself!
One thing I loved about Mortom was the intricate clues to the game. While some of them were a little more "duh" than others, I thought they were fun. I will admit that I had a number of them figured out before Andy, but it was still really fun to see Andy go through the obstacles of solving the puzzle. In that same sense, Mortom kept me guessing. While I had a general idea of how the novel would end, I kept rethinking myself because of all the confusing clues! This just goes to show you to never doubt your first instinct!
I also loved the secondary characters in Mortom a lot. From Nate, the gas station attendant, to Debbie, the little girl across the street with some big secrets, they really made the novel for me. Debbie in particular. Debbie's character was probably the most influential part of the entire Mortom puzzle and I really did not see that coming. There were some awkward and especially cringe-worthy moments that had me flabbergasted, but in the end it all played out for the better! I was a little put off by Debbie's grandfather, Ricky Simms. Ricky really had his own set of issues, but he appeared to make life a whole lot harder for himself. In the end he really made a couple of rash decisions that forever changed the lives of about 6 people. Seriously, he is one character to keep your eyes on.
In true mystery fashion, the villain of this novel turns out to be an obscure character you only meet for a second. While I kind of had an idea of who it was, I really could not be positive due to all the interesting characters we get to meet in the city of Mortom. Like I mentioned before, this one really kept me guessing, which was really an enjoyable experience. But I will say that villain was definitely villainous, in fact, I really wanted him to die. He was awful and creepy as all get out. Kudos to Therme for making is entire existence one that definitely gave me chills!
In the end, was playing the game worth it? Were the secrets Kate and Andy risked it all to solve worth the risk? To that I really don't know. It seems that the only people who gained anything from the game were the two of them. In fact, well.... only one of them. Neither Andy nor Kate really receive any absolution from the novels climax. If anything it only adds to their troubles.
Per the ending itself. I really liked how it pretty much wrapped up the story for us. There were no cliffhangers or glaring plot holes, but it definitely left me wanting a bit more from at least one character (Andy). I feel like Andy really got a rough deal in this novel and would love to read more about what happens to him after the last page. We leave Andy in a rough place that definitely looks like he is headed down a road nobody wants to be on!
All-in-all, I am granting Mortom by Erik Therme a well-deserved 4-star review. While I did take issue with a handful of elements from the novel, the mystery/horror aspect of it kept me going. Once I got into it I could NOT put it down. Mortom took me on an awesome journey that I am glad I got to experience. Original, unique, and thought-provoking, Mortom is great for any reader who enjoys getting their mind blown. Perfect for fans of suspense, thrillers, mystery, and horror, Mortom is sure to please! I know that I will be keeping a close eye on the career of Erik Therme in the future, this man has talent! Be careful not to muss anything when you are reading, you never know what may happen when you take the ride into Mortom!
Alright readers, that is all I have for you on the topic of Mortom by Erik Therme, an awesome read that is sure to blow your minds the way it blew mine! It's a relatively short read, clocking in at just over 200 pages on my Nook, so you have no reason to not check it out! Does Mortom sound like the read for you? If so, head over to the Goodreads and purchase links above to learn more! Already read Mortom? Let me know what you think in the comments below! Special thanks to Erik Therme for supplying me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. I sincerely apologize that it has taken me so long to get it finished! Things are finally getting back on track for me here so everyone be on the look out for many more reviews to come, I've got lots to catch up on! Until next time, Happy Reading!