It is a given that, in most mystery novels, someone dies. The death occurs either before, or shortly after, the novel begins. The bulk of the narrative will explore how or why someone died. In her new novel, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Gillian McAllister finds a new way to approach the classic mystery: Can you stop a murder after it has occurred?
Late in the evening on October 29th, Jen is waiting up for her seventeen-year-old son, Todd, to come home. He is late (possibly, it is the evening of the time change, and at the moment Todd is technically late, midnight, he is granted an extra hour to get home) and Jen, like any mother, is concerned. As she stands by the front window, she sees her son as he approaches their home. She then sees a stranger walking toward her son on the street. Everything else happens in a flash: Todd pulls a knife and viciously stabs the other man several times. Jen calls to her husband, Kelly, and the two race outside. Jen tries to help the man who was stabbed. Kelly tries to talk to Todd and asks him repeatedly why he has done what he has done. The police and paramedics arrive. Todd is arrested. The victim is dead. After a long evening in the police station, Jen and Kelly return home and go to bed, knowing that the next day is only the first in a long series of days in which they will have to deal with the tragedy.
Jen wakes up the next morning, already making plans and coordinating the arrangements that will need to be made, when she hears Todd come out of his bedroom. How is he here? Why is he here? As the moments progress, Jen begins to feel a strong sense of déjà vu, things that have happened in the recent past that are happening again. She finally realizes that the morning she woke up to is not October 30th, but October 29th. And, the next morning, she awakes to find herself living October 28th. As Jen relives these days, she begins to gather information, noticing things that she dismissed earlier, paying closer attention to details and asking questions she didn’t ask before. Because, if she is travelling to the past, she may be able to figure out how and why Todd killed that man in front of their home and she may be able to stop him.
In Wrong Place, Wrong Time Gillian McAllister tells a traditional mystery story but with a different goal: Can I keep a murder from happening? Forcing the amateur detective to travel backwards in time, gathering information and clues, is intriguing. McAllister has populated her novel with compelling and complex characters. The result is a novel that operates on several different levels: mystery novel, time travel novel, relationship novel, a meditation on motherhood, and a reminder of the importance of priorities when struggling to maintain work/life balance. The novel excels on all levels, while deftly sidestepping the possibility of becoming maudlin or overly sentimental. McAllister also reminds readers of the importance of what is happening now and how even the smallest occurrences may begin ripples that will reach far into the future.
Read an interview with the author here.