Italian-born Renata Roberti’s The Red Moon is a mystery novel that focuses more on the victim and possible perpetrators than on solving the narrative puzzle.
Handsome, successful Dr. John Althauss has been murdered, shot through the head sitting in his car in a parking garage, leaving behind his grieving plain, short, pudgy widow, Jane. Two police detectives arrive at the Althauss’s home at midnight to deliver the bad news and take Jane to the morgue to identify the body.
Mary Ellen, her attractive so-called best friend, shows up unexpectedly at the morgue to bring Jane home. The story then flashes back in time to Jane, Mary Ellen, and John meeting in their college days. Characterization is extremely critical in the story as Roberti uses Jane’s submissiveness and both Mary Ellen’s and John’s ambitious and vengeful natures to explain possible motives for the murder and what becomes of Jane after the murder.
Once flashbacks offer readers many background details concerning these three — the fact that John was a jilted boyfriend of Mary Ellen, a description of Jane and John’s marriage, etc. — the police detectives begin their investigation, an examination that is ultimately incomplete, considering that police never search for the bullet nor trace the murder weapon, which may bother some readers.
While the characters and most of the events are portrayed realistically, it may also trouble readers that the dialogue sounds unnatural, as the characters seldom speak using contractions.
Although, in a sense, the novel is a police procedural, it is really more of a psychological drama that delves deeply into the characters’ driving human natures, a quality that is both a plus and a minus. Those who prefer the former may be frustrated with this story. But readers who are more philosophical will appreciate the author’s examination of the consequences that can ensue from possessing certain personality traits. As a look at human behavior, the novel provides a thought provoking read overall.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.