It's always good to start off strong, but it isn't always easy to tell if you've done that once you're on your way. Some time ago I submitted The Comfort of Distance for a professional editorial review in the hopes that I would get some feedback that suggests I'm heading in the right direction. After several weeks of checking my email in hopeful anticipation, I finally heard back:
A gifted forensic anthropologist joins his estranged brother to solve a series of baffling murders when bones are discovered in the Black Hills in THE COMFORT OF DISTANCE.
Piece by piece, human remains are surfacing deep in the wilderness of the Black Hills. As stories of a vicious mountain lion killing residents circulates throughout the county, Sergeant Hank LeGris is desperate to quell the panic before it takes a turn for the worst. With the trail of the killer growing colder by the day, Hank needs to find the real culprit. He reaches out to his estranged brother, Dr. Sebastien Grey, a talented forensic anthropologist, to join him on the case. While awkward and eccentric Sebastian takes the lead with a keen eye for detail and a brilliant analytical mind, the brothers work through years of distance and dysfunction to reconnect. Restoring peace to the quiet, rural county might just prove that there’s a future for Sebastien far outside of his comfort zone.
Ryburn Dobbs’ extensive background in the world of detective work and forensic anthropology lends an enjoyable realism to THE COMFORT OF DISTANCE, the first installment of the Sebastien Grey series. There’s no faux television forensics in these pages—Dr. Grey puts his deductive skills to the test while helping his brother, Hank, his brother’s partner detective, Tiffany, and the audience around forensic jargon and analytical methods used in the field. Parsing out the differences between animal kills and murder, while complex, is presented in a way that’s easy to follow and interesting to learn. And it adds an intense credibility to Sebastian’s character; while he’s constantly anxious and a little odd, he also has hawkish sense of observation and a natural talent for deductive reasoning. A direct contrast to his brother Hank, who’s the strong, masculine lawman type, but tempered by his good sense of humor and easy charm. Tiffany holds her own among a male dominated field, and her evolving relationship with Sebastian as he learns to open up is endearing.
THE COMFORT OF DISTANCE moves at a good pace and doesn’t waste any time getting the action going. Told from multiple points of view, it’s not simply a forensic heavy police procedural. The narrative takes its time to develop characters on all sides of the growing murder mystery, with a clever ear for quick, realistic dialogue and the complicated interpersonal dynamics that exist in a town where nearly everyone knows everyone else. Sebastien gets a lot of page time devoted to his journey—both personal and professional—which ends in a satisfying way for not only him, but others who might see themselves in his quirks and mental health struggles.
A solid start to a brand new mystery series, THE COMFORT OF DISTANCE makes the most of its debut with a lively rural setting, great pacing, realistic dialogue and intense forensic details.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader
I've learned over the years that getting an outside opinion (that is, an opinion that did not originate in my own head) can be an important step in calibrating oneself against reality. Based on what Ms. Thomas and IndieReader took away from the novel, reality is pretty much what I hoped.