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15 Miles
Rob Scott
Gollancz, 356 pages

15 Miles
Rob Scott
Rob Scott was born in New York. He has studied classical guitar, and completed a Masters degree in education. Following a 1994 concert series in Brazil, he moved to Colorado to teach and to complete a doctorate in educational leadership and policy study. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two children.

Rob Scott Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

15 Miles by Rob Scott is named for a nursery rhyme, but it's also the distance from Richmond to the farmhouse where two bodies in various states of mummification are found. The Virginia State Police are spread thin since it's a holiday weekend, so Samuel (Sailor) Doyle is tasked to head up the investigation. A recent transfer to homicide from vice, this is Doyle's first opportunity and he's terrified. But that's only a piece of Doyle's problems. Not only are there two bodies and a missing woman but the farmhouse is littered with feral cats -- most dead but some not -- and an inordinate number of other dead animals including sheep and a horse.

Doyle wanted the transfer from vice because he has a bad OxyContin problem not to mention booze, cigarettes and a mistress he picked up at the CID's holiday party. He also has a loving wife and two kids whom he knows are the best things in his life, but he can't seem to spring himself from his treadmill of self-destruction.

As Doyle proceeds with the investigation, he's troubled by audio hallucinations. The people with whom he converses give him messages from his dead sister, Marie, and the drugs and stress certainly don't help. Sailor Doyle is in a word, a total mess, and you'd think that would make him a character to despise. On the contrary, he's a character you root for especially as more of his past is revealed which Scott handles with precision and grace.

Doyle's success with his case and with himself are so utterly linked that one believes if he finds the missing woman, he may in the end be able to find himself. Scott has done a remarkable job with Doyle, a character you want to loathe because of what he does, how he treats people and who he is, but you don't. Instead you hope to hell he can hold it together long enough to solve the case. Scott's supporting characters also ring true: his wife, Jenny; other troopers, the medical examiner; they all have dimensions and realism in their characters. Scott's use of the supernatural works as well since none of it seems too far "out there" especially given Doyle's pill popping, and the self-loathing is real enough.

At its heart, 15 Miles is a thriller with elements of horror and the supernatural, but in truth, it's much more than that. It's a character study of self-identification and discovery. It the story of a drowning man trying to reach for a line and hoping it's not too late. In short, it's one of the best thrillers I've read in a long time. Many thrillers are fast-paced and filled with action, but one wonders if the authors really care about their characters. There's no question that Scott cares about Doyle. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book about Sailor Doyle, Asbury Park.

Copyright © 2011 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.

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