US Review of Books
Reviewed by Jennifer Weiss
“He wants me to trust him, but if he doesn’t accept me, how can he ask me to put much faith in HIM? I could care very much for him, but I’m too afraid of being hurt and that immobilizes me.”
Gina and Elly move in together while they both attend nursing school. Gina begins to have lustrous affairs with the men in her life. Suddenly, Gina dies, and poison is considered to be the cause of death. Surprisingly, the poison comes from a mushroom with mind-altering properties, one that Gina is studying in her classes. There are several people who could have benefited from her death, but who would have known about the poisonous mushroom? The investigation of Gina’s death is thrown into a world that goes beyond the surface and into a world of transvestites, drugs, alcohol, and betrayal. Elly and Gina’s brother, Todd, are racing against the clock to discover who the murderer could be before someone else meets a tragic end.
Deadly Distrust is a novel with everything mystery enthusiasts would find appealing. Schaller creates a fantastic story filled with murder, betrayal, and romance. The story keeps readers guessing, there is a twist around every corner. Just when readers think they have everything figured out, Schaller throws something in to mix things up. The characters begin strong and continue to develop throughout the story. Gina and Elly are far from alike: Gina leaves an abusive relationship to find herself in another abusive situation, whereas Elly is cautious and meticulous. The use of mushrooms as a poison adds an interesting and unique touch to the mystery. There is a lot of action within this story without the use of filler information. This is a story that lingers long after the book has been finished.
RECOMMMENDED by the US Review
Pacific Book Review
Reviewed by Joseph Scalise
While at first glance Deadly Distrust, the new book by author Mary Schaller, seems like a run-of-the-mill crime thriller, it is actually much more complex than it first appears.
The story opens in September of 1979 and follows two college students, Gina and Elly, who have moved into an apartment in San Francisco. As we explore their lives, and the lives around them, the world gets steadily bigger, introducing more characters through each chapter. However, when Gina turns up dead, poisoned by a mushroom toxin, there are plenty of potential suspects and it is up to Elly, along with Gina’s cop brother, Todd, to piece it all together.
Deadly Distrust moves at a quick pace that keeps the questions coming at each turn. In addition, it also chooses to tell the story in a unique way. Rather than opening on a body like so many crime-thrillers, the first body does not appear until a quarter of the way in. This is just one example of how Schaller plays with expectations. Another interesting aspect is the tonality of the story itself. While some texts will stray away from darker themes, this story chooses to embrace them. It is a book about secrets, dysfunction, and how you can never really know a person.
In a way, it works very well; taking the pleasant backdrop of the San Francisco Bay Area and juxtaposing it with something more devious. Schaller fully embraces that theme, and uses the contrast to tackle some heavy themes, ranging from infidelity to rape to murder. This is an adult book meant for mature audiences, and it hits on that level quite well.
One the only things holding Deadly Distrust back is the writing itself. Though the narrative and characters are woven quite well, the writing does appear very basic at times — “Gina gently touched her neck to see it it was still in one piece.” — at times. This, combined with poor or elementary word choice can take away and distract from the story at certain times. However, the plot and characters remain strong.
Overall, Deadly Distrust is an ensemble crime-thriller. A heavy story that winds through twists and turns from the first body all the way until the rather unexpected ending. Nothing is what it seems in this world, and the book serves to remind us of that time and time again. Though it has flaws, Deadly Distrust is a solid, very quick read that does a good job for anyone seeking out a more serious adult crime thriller.