It is the year 1989. The absorbing and suspense-filled story of “Wired“ begins with the description of the body of a young teen-aged girl who has been found murdered on the bluff that overlooks the town of Rosewood. It is the popular spot for teens to gather and has until recently been the scene of the normal teen-age misbehavior that one would expect. But it has become a place of horror and danger: the bodies of more young girls, found tortured, raped, and murdered in an identical fashion, start appearing on the bluff.
“Wired” jumps effortlessly out of the “plot-gate,” and races to its suspenseful conclusion. Martha Randolph Carr delivers an engaging story populated with sympathetic characters, and with well-turned phrases and plot developments to keep you engaged and invested to the last word.
"Next to the back door was a small key rack with different keys attached to small round pieces of paper, saying what each one was willing to open."
From the beginning, Ms. Carr begins to offer the reader such keys; and the reader is pulled along to search for the mysteries each key will unlock.
We are introduced to a young family, the Eames: Husband Charlie, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, and their precocious and sensitive five-year-old son, Matthew. Charlie and Mary Elizabeth “have it all,” by all appearances. Charlie owns the local shoe store – one he bought from the retiring former owner. He loves spending time with his delightful son, and Mary Elizabeth is a very attentive, if distant, mother. The two of them have loved each other since High School. Everything looks right on the surface. But the appearances are deceiving. Mary Elizabeth is very troubled, and consumed by a guilt that she scarcely understands herself. Every day, she sinks more deeply into depression and anxiety, absent-mindedly rubbing the skin on her wrists raw, each time she hears and reads of another girl murdered on the bluff. She wants to talk to Charlie, but she shuts down at every opportunity or opening that the increasingly frustrated Charlie gives her to confide in him. Instead, she withdraws into herself away from both Charlie and “Mattie,” losing herself in compulsive gardening and landscaping, trying to escape from herself, and from the fear and nightmares that haunt her. Mary Elizabeth finally asks for a trial separation, what she tells Charlie will be a ”brief time apart” to give her some time to work out what she wants, and if she is still in love with the man to whom she has become more and more a stranger.
Being on her own with Mattie does not improve Mary Elizabeth’s well-being, and she struggles daily to hold herself together, especially as she hears of each new vicious rape/murder on the bluff – one of which hits very close to home when the victim is the daughter of their best friends. The story enlarges to include elements of small-town racism, a facet of Rosewood’s small-town life that becomes one of the hubs around which a large part of the novel turns. Charlie’s one employee at the store is a black gentleman who has held his position there since before Charlie purchased the store from the owner. Douglas Samms has been a reliable employee of Charlie’s, but he has been a minor supporting character in his life, until Douglas steps up to offer Charlie friendship, help, and a place to stay when the only place Charlie has to sleep is a cot in the back of the store.
We come to understand Mary Elizabeth through the difficult relationship that she has with Rose, her judgemental, vindictive mother, and the friendships she develops with her neighbors during her separation from Charlie. A wise and wonderful elderly neighbor lady, with whom Mattie forms a strong friendship, becomes for Mary Elizabeth a source of strength and wisdom; and the kind but questionable ”turtle-man” across the street who would gladly take Mary Elizabeth and Mattie in if she were willing, also becomes a major player in her life. Charlie’s friends and their reactions to his steadily developing interracial relationship with Douglas’s sister Thelma, along with a whole host of interesting characters, adds to the atmosphere that becomes more and more dense even as the unknown murderer plots more terror, himself a victim of radical mental instability, feeling compelled to follow the instructions of the voice inside his mind. Ms. Carr does a very skilful job describing the inner turmoil and motives of the deranged man.
The passionate love affair between Charlie and Thelma brings some happiness into Charlie’s life, but also leaves Charlie in a quandary as to where his loyalties lie. Mary Elizabeth continues to keep her past completely to herself, and she begins to unravel from within. It is evident that Mary Elizabeth needs him, and has given him hints that she wants him to come home, forcing Charlie to make a choice.
Mary Elizabeth’s guilty secret, Charlie’s decision about his loyalties to his estranged wife and his new lover, and the ultimate discovery and capture of the murderer build together as the book rushes to its climax. There are some unexpected twists along the way, before the book comes to a hopeful and satisfying conclusion.
Perhaps the most interesting subplot in this many-faceted novel is the effect of subtle racism – the de facto segregation that has always been a part of the town’s character. Benign racism is the general attitude of most of the white population toward the black. What could have been a clumsy plot-contrivance is skillfully woven into this involving tale, and provides keen insight into the race relations that once were prevalent in middle America, and still exist to one degree or another.
Written in 1993, “Wired“ was Martha Randolph Carr’s first novel. It is an extraordinary first novel, by any standard, and was a pleasure to read. Ms. Carr is a writer of considerable talents. Since “Wired,” she has authored two more books, and has a weekly, nationally syndicated column read by 4 million readers a month across America through the Cagle Cartoon syndicate on politics, national interest topics and life in general. Her newest work, “The List,” is a political thriller set around the attorney, Wallis Jones her husband Norman and their son Ned. “The List” is the first in a series. Martha is currently at work on the sequel, “The Keeper.”
Martha is also a melanoma survivor, Chi runner, occasional rower and skydiver and mother to Louie. She resides near her son in Chicago, IL, where everyone is always welcome to stay for dinner.
A favorite quotation from the novel, “Wired:”
"'We don't need favors, Charlie Eames. We can take care of ourselves, we're grown men and women and we mow our lawns, pay our bills, and watch after our babies, same as you, No difference.' 'I knew that,' he said quietly. I figured you didn't want as much, felt grateful you got what you got, thought Charlie. I didn't hate anyone, not because of their color, I just didn't think much of them. I didn't so much hate as passively ignore."
Enter to win 1 of 3 free paperback copies of this novel on the official Wired blog tour page. The winner of the give-away will be announced on Wednesday, October 26 – be sure to enter before then! Just can’t wait to read Wired? Pick up your copy in the Kindle, Nook, or iTunes stores or visit Smashwords with the coupon code AK95A to receive a discounted price (just $2)!
Don’t forget to vote for my blog, “Reflections From a Cloudy Mirror“ in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins an Amazon gift card and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Wired blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
Learn more about this author by visiting her website, Facebook or GoodReads pages or by connecting with her on Twitter. You’ll definitely want to check out Martha’s Mystery Blog–each week a new short thriller is serialized Monday through Friday. The entries are nice and short, easy to read via smart phone or tablet. It’s all at www.MarthaCarr.com.
My Gentle Readers, I wish you all enough. . .