Tarmara Jones stretches herself in new novel 'Morgan's Run'

Known for writing darker fiction, Tamara Jones takes a run at women’s fiction in her new novel, “Morgan’s Run.” Set in a small town in southern Minnesota, “Morgan’s Run” explores the mysterious death of Darcy, Morgan’s business partner, forcing Morgan to examine what she truly knows about herself and the woman she worked with and thought she knew.

Jones certainly knows how to create compelling characters and engaging locales. As she did in “Spore” (Autumn Arch Publishing 2017), Jones is able to explain the inner workings of living in a small town in the Midwest — the mistrust locals have for newcomers and that somewhat uncomfortable welcome-ness locals effuse when they finally connect with a newcomer.

Morgan’s journey of self-discovery is moving and engaging. Discovering the reasons why she runs (literally and metaphorically) and her mistrust of others keeps the reader turning pages. Even if Morgan’s budding relationship seems a bit predictable, there is a need for someone outside of Morgan’s head to start pointing the way and why not a friendly, good-looking guy? Nick defies the stereotype of IT dudes. He’s friendly, conversational, knowledgeable and understanding. He’s definitely the guy-next-door, which is the type of unassuming person Morgan needs at this point in her life. His likability goes a long way to helping Morgan understanding why she is where she is in her life and discovering the truth behind Darcy’s murder.

Darcy’s murder. This is where “Morgan’s Run” falls a bit flat. There was not enough time spent on solving Darcy’s murder. The story is all about Morgan and her hang-ups, which is not bad, but the reason Morgan is stuck in the middle of nowhere Minnesota is Darcy’s murder. No one in the “Morgan’s Run” is an amateur sleuth or wannabe detective.

There seems to be no palpable motivation to solve Darcy’s murder. The clues come slow and are few and far between until the end of the story when there appears to be a sudden realization that the end is near as Morgan starts getting her life together. As a result, when the who-dun-it is finally revealed, it feels haphazard and halfhearted. More time needed to be spent on developing and rolling out the past storyline that pulled Morgan, Darcy and the killer together to achieve the real punch it is intended to have.

“Morgan’s Run” is not a bad installment in the women’s fiction genre. It is an easy, quick, compelling read even if the who-dun-it reveal falls short. It’s great to see Jones stretching her legs as a writer, trying something new and succeeding quite well in giving readers characters and a setting with which they can relate and identify.

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