Captured by Their Past, by Miguel Arrufat Millan, presents a murder mystery revolving around the victim’s best friend and sons.
When visiting John Brown, a long-time friend in London, Michael Smith expects to catch up after several years apart. But the visit soon becomes a murder investigation after Brown is poisoned during dinner. Both of the deceased man’s sons, John and Charles, were also present, and son John is accused of killing his father. Smith, a lawyer, works to identify the killer (or killers) to exonerate the younger man.
While the plot has the potential, the story is undermined by numerous flaws, including lack of development. For example, before the senior John Brown dies, he introduces his sons to Smith, sharing the names and ages of each of their children. But learning more about these characters as individuals, rather than offering this extraneous information about their children, could help readers understand why Smith is so confident the younger John Brown is innocent.
The story is also eclipsed by repetitious dialogue that has no attribution, puzzling readers about who is speaking; numerous grammatical errors; use of the passive voice; and several inconsistencies. Readers will also be confused by the similar names of some characters (father and son both named John; victim’s wife and Smith’s grandchild, both named Mary, etc.)
The author often focuses on his characters’ physical qualities. While it eventually becomes clear why he does this, these descriptions read like lists instead of providing vivid images. For example, describing Brown, Millan writes: “He was not very tall, [sic] he was sixty years old, brown-eyed, not very fat and a dark-haired man.” Describing the maid on the same page, he notes: “…she had dark hair and big green eyes. She was young, about twenty three [sic] years old [sic] I thought.”
The mystery’s resolution is clever, but by then, readers will be frustrated by the story’s many issues. Revision is required to engage an audience.