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Review: ‘See Her Run’ has sophisticated plotting

  • This cover image released by Thomas & Mercer shows "See Her Run," an Aloa Snow mystery by Peggy Townsend. (Thomas & Mercer via AP)



Associated Press
Monday, June 11, 2018

Journalist Peggy Townsend’s superb debut delivers an intense char-
   acter study of a woman whose public humiliation after losing her job has left her unemployable and nearly broke, and has triggered personal demons that she thought she had conquered.

See Her Run introduces former investigative reporter Aloa Snow, who lost her job at the Los Angeles Times because she invented a source for a story on Vietnamese nail salon workers. The story was good – and illustrated the poor working conditions and abuse that workers encounter. But the fictional source tainted the article and left Aloa a pariah in journalism. Now she’s living in her deceased grandmother’s San Francisco house, which she may lose because she can barely afford the taxes, and coping with the anorexia she thought she had conquered. Her only friends are the couple who own the local bar.

She doesn’t want – but desperately needs – a job offer from software designer and philanthropist Michael Collins, whom she hasn’t seen in more than 18 years. He offers Aloa a high salary to investigate the apparent suicide of adventure runner Hayley Poole, who died during a camping trip in the desert. The story would be for Novo, an independent newsroom founded by Michael. Despite the animosity she harbors for Michael because of their past, Aloa senses a good story, the chance to bring some justice to Hayley and, a bit of redemption for herself. The investigation leads Aloa to the world of competitive sports, corporate intrigue and corrupt beliefs.

Aloa receives unexpected help from a group of elderly “anarchists and rebels” who had their heyday during the 1960s and 1970s and now spend each evening at the local bar squabbling and complaining. Nicknamed “the Brain Farm,” the men not only prove to be formidable investigators, they also are revived by the chance to prove their skills are still viable. They also lend a bit of humor as the men educate themselves about technology and social media.

Townsend’s sophisticated plotting and affinity for character development elevate See Her Run. The appealing Aloa’s mistake railroaded her life and left her adrift. The story allows her to tap into her journalism skills again and prove herself to others and, most of all, to herself. Working again also allows her to deal with her eating disorder, which Townsend intelligently explores. Townsend’s sense of place puts the reader squarely in San Francisco and its environs.