“Through Any Window” by Deb Richardson-Moore

Through Any Window (Red Adept Publishing 2024) is a robust, compelling mystery that checks all the right boxes—twisty, well-paced plot with not one, but three unsolved murders, complex characters, crisp prose, conflicts galore, and excellent world-building. The wickedly clever twists and turns in this engaging, character-driven novel will keep readers intrigued as the author quickly whisks readers into the turbulent world of her varied, troubled people.

To this compulsively readable tale, author Deb Richardson-Moore adds social consciousness with a strong theme of personal redemption, plus a close look at how greed-driven gentrification developments can impact poverty. The author infuses these themes through her characters’ actions with a natural story-telling flow. In this way, she enhances Through Any Window without the slightest hint of preaching.

The author’s compassion and understanding toward one of her protagonists, Caleb, might well be because of her own history of pastoring among the homeless in South Carolina, where Through Any Window is largely set. Caleb, a homeless busboy barely out of his teens, is the son of a manipulative addict. He is trying hard to escape the disruptive vortex of his mother and her loathsome lifestyle. A high-school dropout with a permanent criminal record, Caleb is determined to better himself. He is also accustomed to being overlooked, which allows him to observe things others miss. This trait leads to skillfully crafted plot twists. He sleeps nights as a trespasser in a potting shed, which provides him with a clear view into the pool house where the double murder occurs. Given his past run-ins with the law, police conclude he is the perfect suspect.

The other main character, Riley Masterson, perhaps has a better shot at redemption than Caleb as she comes from a more stable family background and even had a few years of college before dropping out. But her life is a mess. She is either an alcoholic or well on her way to becoming one. Like Caleb, she has had past run-ins with the law. For her, too, the road to redemption—and sobriety—will be hard, especially when there are those actively setting her up for worse things to come.

The novel jumps right into the double murder on the first few pages, with Riley as a dazed witness who does not quite understand what she saw.  Riley is kind of on the lam from her own life when she wakes up in a bedroom in her cousin’s pool house. Normally, she would be at work that early in the evening, but she left long before her shift ended. No one would expect her to be in the pool house. She’d been drinking before crashing out to sleep. Awakened by sounds of other people in the pool house, she “slipped from the bed that wasn’t hers, clutching a light-weight comforter as a shield.”

Atmospherically drawn, these opening scenes set a tone and lift the suspense right off the page: “Outside, storm clouds blackened the sky, but pool lights gleamed through the glass doors and illuminated two people on the sofa, half-dressed, entwined.” Yet the couple and Riley are not the only ones in the pool house. In the kitchen doorway, twenty feet away, another figure stands watching. To Riley’s horror, that person slowly raises an arm and points a gun. Before Riley can scream a warning, a shot rings out. In the first of many twists, however, the shot does not come from the figure in the kitchen. No, the noise of the gunfire comes from a different direction. Unaware that Caleb is watching from the potting shed, Riley closes her eyes and rocks and rocks, thinking this couldn’t be happening again.

The “couldn’t be happening again” reference, as readers will soon learn, refers to when Riley was the lead suspect in the still unsolved murder of her older, married lover in Mobile, Alabama. Hounded by the police, she had decided to leave Alabama and moved into her cousin’s pool house in South Carolina. There, she took up waiting tables in a trendy restaurant. Her frequent alcoholic blur is both character-revealing and an essential plot element.

The cast of characters is diverse, with even the minor characters well drawn and actively moving the plot. This motley band includes Riley’s cousin Mikala, a former beauty queen who now has body weight issues, fierce social ambitions, and an outrageous, devious plan. Mikala views her distant cousin Riley as a distasteful, lower-class embarrassment, yet she takes Riley into her mansion of a home, ceding over the pool house to her. Mikala’s motive is but one more puzzling twist in this story.

Riley’s foil—her younger, wilder sister, Rayanne—adds yet another puzzle. The novel only slowly unravels the sisters’ dark secret, which keeps suspense high. When Rayanne arrives, she promises to stay in the pool house for only one night, but ends up living in the main house with cousin Mikala with no exit date in sight.

Neighbors include a married same-sex couple, Cate and Savannah, and their adopted mix-raced teenage son. Savannah is the more dynamic partner, a gorgeous real estate developer who is so busy low-balling sales and ripping up older mill town houses to replace with mansions for the wealthy that she fails to care how destructive her greed is. However, her wife Cate—a gentle gardener—and the adopted son not only see this impact, but they recoil from it. Cate sums up an important part of the social consciousness of the novel when she says: “But it does matter how we make our living, how we live in the world.”

Who killed Riley’s lover in Mobile and who killed the two dead people in the pool house remain the primary mysteries, but a handful of other twists prowl through this crafty, impeccably organized, and well paced novel of suspense. There’s a rapist on the loose, an unstable blackmailer, more conniving folks with hidden agendas, a dilapidated rooming house full of the recent homeless, rich people mad at the poor people and vice-versa, and a whole community angry at Savannah for misleading them.

All in all, this is a grand and inviting mystery, with a touch of stalker/thriller and police procedural rolled into the package. In other words, a novel with pretty much something for all readers.

Deb Richardson-Moore

Richardson-Moore, a former national award-winning reporter for The Greenville News, lives in South Carolina with her husband, where she enjoys gardening, volunteering, and public speaking. She is the author of five mystery/suspense titles and a memoir, The Weight of Mercy, about her time as a pastor among the homeless at the Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, S.C. Her mystery books have been finalists in Killer Nashville competitions. Visit her at https://www.debrichardsonmoore.com.






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