The Bottom Line: A must-read murder mystery that is as surprising as it is immersive.
Fittingly, Love Lost on Cloud 9 opens with a murder told from the point of view of the victim. In the book’s first chilling page, we learn that 32-year-old photographer Astrid Russo was strangled, found two days after her death, and – thanks to a truly creepy sensory experience, as well as her last words – that she knew her killer.
We soon meet newlywed Sharon Walsh, who unknowingly moves into Astrid’s house with radio DJ husband Kip. Sharon never quite feels comfortable in their new home, but attributes most of her unsettled feelings to the abandoned Cloud 9 Family Fun Center next door, as well as “weird duck” neighbor Dolores. She has no idea about the home’s dark history until one of Kip’s co-workers drops a bombshell at a party: “The husband who murdered his wife in your closet last year. Can you, like, feel her presence when you’re getting dressed?”
Sharon’s concern grows as she learns that authorities never captured the suspected killer. As she becomes obsessed with the case, she finds clues – a diary, some pornography and other items – that were either not found or outright ignored by police. Further, she begins to suspect that her husband is keeping secrets from her.
In Sharon, Author K.C. Brote delivers a first-rate amateur sleuth. Driven by both insatiable curiosity and fear, Sharon’s superpower isn’t borne out of a specific trade or skill. It’s actually the relative ordinariness of her suburban existence that makes her so compelling. Sharon may be prone to jealousy and suspicion, but she’s also exceptionally warm and likable. Readers looking for a fully “human” protagonist they can relate to will devour Love Lost on Cloud 9 from cover-to-cover.
Bonus points to Brote for perfectly transporting readers to the summer of 1978. Every radio transcript, home furnishing and cultural reference is spot-on. Music lovers will relish numerous references to late 70s icons like Andy Gibb, ABBA and Donna Summer. Brote has even assembled an outstanding Spotify playlist containing Billboard’s Top 25 songs for the week Sharon and Kip moved into their home. It’s a masterful touch, and also indicative of the care with which she has taken to weave this immersive murder mystery.