Book Review: The Man on the Roof – Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead

The Man on the Roof

“The tea’s steam dying, I go to take my first sip when I flip to page 28 and read the header. Making me chuckle, it reads: “Death By Bludgeoning.” Who else says bludgeoning but cops and reporters. I must have been watching something on the news that night. But will this serve my purpose? Is this the best way by which I should kill my husband tonight?”

The Man On The Roof ( Locations 929-931)

The Plot

From Amazon: Someone has been creeping in the dark while the others sleep, and they’ve done terrible, terrible things.

“There was a man on your roof,” claims curmudgeonly lane-hermit Herbert McKinney. Then, he initiates an unprovoked fight with a local punk. Drama escalates when that punk’s dead body is found hanging at mid-street one August morning—a boastful killer messaging their next prey. All fingers point to Herbert as the culprit. Soon, the five couples he calls neighbors come under suspicion, too. When lead detective Cady Lambert divines blackmail as the motive, eyes cross to find who hides the most shameful secret. Husband versus wife, friend versus friend, the shiny suburban veneer of innocence has been forever tarnished. As hidden deviousness boils from their pores, there lurks a thief, a pill addict and a sadist—secrets worth killing for.

Now, as the man on the roof helps guide justice and watches devious neighbors slip in and out of sleepy houses, confusion and questions persist. Who dies next? What have they learned? Who is becoming a monster? Who already is one? And just how many secrets can a small group of multi-ethnic Ohioans have? Only one cemented truth exists: the killer will kill again.

A tension-building psychological mystery-suspense thriller, The Man On The Roof propels the reader through a tangled, volatile and suspenseful thicket of deception, murder and friends, inviting the reader to discover the murderer and who hides which lie.

Writing Style

“You fall in love and suddenly you fall right into the traps of modern suburbia. You have to move out from the city for fear of being killed, for fear of this very thing that has us all up in arms. You fall for the allure of duvet covers, neighborhood book clubs, knitting circles with the girls, weekend games of soft-touch football with the guys, cookouts that run deep into the night and kids frolicking safely through the quiet streets of your predominantly white neighborhood. Your mind never focuses on life’s domestic minutiae. The never-ending chore wheel for both inside and outside of the house; having to make sure your kids don’t do something so stupid that your house gets egged; or possibly having to deal with infertility and the judgment people heap on you for never having children; constantly having to deal with the Podunk, overzealous police officers too eager for a real crime outside of speeding; everyone smiling in your face when you both know you hate each other because your neighbor’s dog is constantly shitting on your lawn, or their cat is leaving dead field mice at your doorstep. Here, you learn a perfect lie, you live a perfect beauty. I’d probably hate it in the city, too. But this pollen-infested, laboring existence runs me up a wall. I’m bored. I’m bored and only a few small things undo such an affliction.” (Locations 1920-1929)

This book has the potential to be extremely confusing, as the narrative swaps between first and third person (depending on the chapter), but also between characters narrating their own goings-on. There are in excess of ten different characters, so this could jumble into a big mess if the reader isn’t paying close attention. That said, I loved the risk that the author took by composing the writing this way. Almost every chapter is named by either “suspect #” or event or event aftermath. This way the reader can start to formulate ideas about each of the suspects and piece together their personalities, fetishes, quirks, secrets and thoughts. The kicker is that you never know who you’re actually reading about. The chapters written from suspects’ perspectives never explicitly name which character’s thought are contained within it. This means that you, as the reader, are constantly trying to build the bigger picture and fitting everyone into it.

Writing this way was extremely creative, if not risky! Every character was well-rounded and as loud within the narrative as all the others. I felt like I was watching this community of people through a looking glass, in a very Truman Show-esque setup. I knew all their secrets and personal drama but I simply could not figure out who the killer was. And that was the bonus to this book. I can usually figure out plots, and especially killers, very quickly and easily. This book just kept me guessing.

There were some strange grammatical and spelling errors. And honestly, I wasn’t sure if some of these strange words were errors or meant to illustrate something about the character using them.

“Should I awake her…” (Location 2489)

“Women are such conundrums, such mysteries, such igmas.” (Location 2512)

I have no idea what an “igma” is, and the fact that it is italicised makes me wonder. There are a few words like this but they didn’t really detract from the story or immersion. The grammar is good, for the most part but there are many instance where the sentence structure was very American, for lack of a better explanation. The word order could sometimes be jumbled with the object, subject and especially the verb being in the wrong spot.

The Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Initially, I struggled to get into it, but that was because of distractions and completely not the book’s fault. Once I was able to sit down and really get my teeth into it, I couldn’t put it down. I obsessed about it, and talked to my husband about it incessantly. This plot had me so twisted and turned around while trying figure out who the killer was, and who the paedophile was, and who the kleptomaniac was, and who was having an affair, that I starting making notes and writing down theories! That may sound tiring to some of you but I had immense fun doing it.

The narrative woven by Mr Stephenson perfectly illustrated that: No-one ever truly knows their neighbours, everyone has secrets (some darker than others), and that anyone is capable of anything, even murder, if the circumstances require it.

This is a hefty read, so prepare yourself. With that in mind, but considering the grammatical errors that I found along the way, I do think that $9.19 for the kindle copy is a bit steep. That said, if you have the money and you enjoy murder-mysteries, definitely give this a read!

My rating: 4/5

The Man on the Roof is available on Amazon.

This review was requested by the author.

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