9.17.2014

Review: Stephen Downing is Dead by Dan Goss Anderson

Title: Stephen Downing is Dead
Author: Dan Goss Anderson
Publication Date: June 4th, 2013
Publisher: Peer Publishing
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 282
ISBN: 0989200906
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Fledgling defense attorney Owen Bartlett understands that this murder trial, against a seasoned prosecutor, is way over his head. Having come west to leave his past behind, he planned to build a new life in this wild, open land. But with only a law degree from the Boston YMCA and no courtroom experience, he has been roped into defending a man accused of murder. Now he faces a jury of ranchers, storekeepers, miners--men with little love for Mexicans like Owen's client, Miguel Cordero. If he fails, Miguel will hang. 

Behind Owen is Miguel's wife, Gabby, her future too in Owen's hands. In the rear of the courtroom, the widow Eva Downing listens, her heart in her throat with the secret knowledge that the wrong person has been accused of murdering her husband. She does not yet know, or care, that this young defense attorney from Boston has already fallen for her. STEPHEN DOWNING IS DEAD follows the trajectory of three intertwined lives, each shaped by the killing of Stephen Downing and by the trial of his accused murderer. It's the story of the search for a redemption that seems always just out of reach, a tale of cowardice, ambition, and real love at the dawn of the modern American west.
  






Dan Goss Anderson grew up mostly in the desert southwest. After a stint in the military, he worked as a janitor, factory worker, and landscaper, until finally returning to school to study creative writing. 

He completed a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing at the University of Arizona, and went on to teaching college writing courses and freelancing for various magazines. In his forties, he once again returned to school, this time to study law, and became a public defender. 


He now lives in southern Arizona, where he divides his time between fiction writing and the practice of law.




      With a title like Stephen Downing is Dead, expectations are automatically set high for Dan Goss Anderson's new novel. Based in Tuscon at the turn of the 20th century, Owen Bartlett is an inexperienced defense attorney who has taken on a case that is too big for him to chew. To make matters worse, the prosecutor has some time under his belt. It is possible they have the wrong man. Tie a three-strand cord of lives together, and you've got Stephen Downing is Dead.

     If his readers weren't already hooked by the mysterious title, Anderson grabs a second hold of their attention with the opening line, "Life changes in a moment."He then proceeds to leave the reader in the dark while describing a situation that we definitely would like some answers to! This is a historical mystery novel that will keep you turning pages and asking questions until the very end. Anderson has a sophisticated way of writing that is enjoyable and intriguing. This is one of those books that could easily be made into a movie. That's what it felt like reading it, like watching the story unfold on a filmstrip in front of me.

     The characters are interesting enough to where even the minor characters seem to play a major role, and the author is very detailed. Not in an overly-fluffed, overcompensating kind of way, but tastefully and effectively. May it be noted that the author communicates to the reader that he had every intention of being as historically accurate as possible, but also intended to provide the reader with maximum comprehension. This is something I can definitely appreciate from the author. Having a sense of purism without compromising efficacy is an admirable quality for an author to possess. 

     If you're looking for a mystery that is easy to read but still carries  rounded content, then this is the book for you.