Shadow by the Bridge by Suzanne Zewan
Publication Date: November 1, 2017
No Frills Buffalo eBook & Paperback; 368 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
11-year-old Fritz Reynolds recalled his father telling him that man is the only creature who can find amusement in killing. Little did he realize that those words would become the theme for his teenage years growing up in the rural hamlet of Linden, New York. In this coming-of-age story, Fritz takes us back to a simpler time when neighbors gathered at the general store to listen to radio shows, drank barrel-aged cider, and worshiped at the Baptist church every Sunday. All was picturesque in his close-knit farming community until terror was unleashed on them.
***My Personal Review***
Normally I read historical fiction that is set in exotic places and times, it's rare that I get to read something like this - a story that sweeps you back to a time and place in America, back when you didn't have to lock your doors, you could feel safe walking at night and life was a much slower pace. Kids were able to grow up outside without worrying about being abducted and they would stay outside all day and most of the evening before coming home. And they didn't need tablets, computers and phones to have fun. Fritzy, the main character of the story, grew up in a place just like this. What I loved about this book was that it is based on real events. And when we think of New York, we always think of the huge city, the people, the excitement, the cars and the life. This story takes us back to a time before all of that was around. So the story is based on the real life event of a woman being brutally murdered in 1917 in Linden, NY. The author weaves an intricate story of a young boy who witnesses the murder, forcing him to grow up quickly and throwing a small town into a tumultuous time that they had never experienced before.
Fritzy is just a typical young man, not quite a kid but not yet an adult who loves to just run around and play like any kid. Except today is not a good day. As he is just going about being a kid, he happens upon a man and a woman in the forest and he watches as the man brutally bashes in the skull of the woman - so much so that she is unrecognizable. He starts to see a man following him, and he runs home and of course being so young he doesn't know what to do so he just pretends to be fine and doesn't tell his mom what happened and why he is covered in mud and blood. Later that evening the woman is found in a field and the news gets to Fritz's mother, but no one in town seems to recognize her. So who is she? And why would this man want her dead? Unfortunately due to the circumstances surrounding this the case is never solved and 100 years ago they did not have the means to solve a murder such as this. This one event will set off a chain of events that will forever haunt this small town even to this day.
So on we go to see Fritz even older, and they had all thought that the tragic event was over - they were wrong. Now a neighbor that everyone knows is dead, her head also bashed in, and everyone - especially Fritz - flashes back to that unsolved mystery several years back. Again there is no motive and nothing to go on. But of course it hits even closer to home. As time goes on and we watch Fritz grow up, the little town is subjected to even more tragedy as more murders occur. In between all of this Fritz is still a normal guy, finding love and growing up. I started to think that somehow these were related and we just didn't know how, and began to think that perhaps someone in Linden was hiding a terrible secret. The story goes on and we see that Fritz is continually haunted throughout his life by these terrible events and even though he is never harmed, it's always in the back of his mind that he believes someone saw him that day of the first murder. It's a great read because it's factual - the author has done her homework - and also because we get to see the murders through the eyes of a young man who becomes a man and lives through it all. I really enjoyed it and I think it's something that adults would enjoy if they like good mysteries or unsolved cases. With the content being of an adult nature, I would say it's not a great idea for young adults. But if you are a crime buff, then you will probably enjoy this book tremendously. We can always watch the documentaries on tv about crimes, but we never quite see them the same way as we do if someone actually witnesses them. And it may be a fictionalized account but overall it's a great coming of age story and the best part is that we get to know Fritz from the time he was young to being an adult, so he is a very relatable and complex character.
I shook and stared. The man’s back was still to me. She was lying on the ground face down, shaking as she sobbed. He turned around and glanced over towards Harlow’s farm as if he heard a noise. Quickly, I moved back behind the rock and stared at its solidness, wishing I could find a crack in the rock to seep into. My fear kept me still as if I was being held with sharp claws. I was left with only a prayer.
~Fritz Reynolds, Linden, New York—November 12, 1917