Title: Solving Cadence Moore
Author: Gregory Sterner
Hi guys, so it has been a couple of weeks since I have written a blog post as instead I have read a batch of books in one go so that I can hopefully post on here a bit more regularly. Among them I was sent Solving Cadence Moore to review, the debut novel by Gregory Sterner.
The mystery surrounding Cadence Moore hasn’t been resolved in over a decade. The beautiful college singer was on the cusp of success with a blossoming music career when she disappeared without trace on a highway in Pennsylvania, following a college party. Was she murdered or did she run away to start a new life?
The case has reentered the public psyche following the release of a documentary film, which makes it a perfect candidate for the local radio station who wants to launch a podcast series, following its successful conspiracy theory radio show “Underground Broadcast”.
In a heated argument with his boss, the host and producer of the show, Charlie Marx tells his boss that he has solved the case and promises to reveal her fate at the end of a two hour live radio special following the podcast series. So beings a race against time as Charlie pieces together the evidence surrounding her disappearance to solve the case. If he succeeds, it will mean closure for Cadence but if he fails then his world could crash down on him live on air, and the case may never be resolved.
The book is written largely in an epistolary style with most of the story taking the form of transcripts for the podcast series, and radio special, with smaller sections of narrative used mainly to set the scene at the beginning of the novel. I found this structure to be very effective and Sterner overall uses it really well to peel back the layers of the story surrounding Cadence Moore – in fact it is really only two thirds of the way through that you learn all of the theories that have surrounded her disappearance as Sterner uses the format to build up one theory about the case before immediately countering it with another theory so your loyalties to each character get tested at different points.
In the foreword, it mentions Sterner is a listener of National Public Radio series such as This American Life and I myself have actually been listening to the Serial Podcast produced with the same company ( I am currently still on Season 1 of this series but it is worth a download if you haven’t listened to it before as it is fascinating – https://serialpodcast.org/). The transcripts in this novel were actually so realistic that I began to question if I was reading a fictional story or if this actually happened – they are that good.
Another point I ought to make which readers of my blog will know I do every time I review a thriller is whether I could guess the ending and again I didn’t as the book has many different possibilities that the end result is surprising. It also asks questions of the reader who has so far been forced to accept a glamorized, embellished version of events when the truth could be something far more ordinary which is something which happens in everyday life with sensationalism in the media.
However I do feel in the last chapter the momentum does slow down a little as the tension becomes less about what happened to Cadence and more to do with whether Charlie’s version of events actually works out to be the truth. I did like the fact Sterner actually uses another character in the final chapter who holds the key to the mystery, rather than the protagonist, meaning some degree of tension is carried through to the very last page. However by the time Charlie reveals his theory on what happened earlier it is hard to deny it being any other possibility which is where I feel some of the tension is lost.
However, sitting here as I write this review the ending is actually more thought-provoking than I first thought (if you pardon the pun) as Sterner could also be making a comment on Charlie’s own obsession with celebrity culture and how in society people trample on others to get to where they need to. He himself has used Cadence to further his own career so the book highlights that fact by focussing at the end back on Charlie’s career, not on the singer’s disappearance.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and it is a great debut novel for Sterner which is worth checking out.