What Comes After is a Solid Yet Slow Read

A book about a murder suicide mystery in a small town

Darlene Strange, Staff Writer

What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins may be a suspenseful novel about the tensions of affection , anger, courage, forgiveness and everything in between. Set in one coastal Washington town begins the murder mystery. JoAnne Tompkins’ first book is an unforgettable story about life after you lose someone so tragically. While it has a solid story, its actual prose is sometimes difficult to get through.


One week into his senior year of high school, Daniel Balch doesn’t click after football practice. He is athletic and popular and is treated as a sort of hero in his small town, so his father, Isaac, is not too worried just yet. But when he still has not shown up by morning, a search party begins. On day 8 of Daniel’s disappearance, his best friend Jonah, dies by suicide, leaving behind a note that doesn’t just say goodbye, he is confessing to Daniel’s murder and leading the police to his violently stabbed body. Jonah gave no reason as to why he committed this crime, but locals and Isaac immediately started to weigh the boys’ differences. Daniel was athletic and popular, while Jonah was awkward and boring. It is thought that a girl might have been involved in the murder but even that explanation doesn’t have enough evidence. However, there is a young lady who knows more about the boys than even their closest friends and family.

Sixteen-year-old Evangeline McKensey’s luck has run dry. She has been abandoned by her Very religious mother for a life of drug addiction and men, and she is just a few days before she will get evicted out of her home. She is also with a child. Like everyone in her town, she has been watching and listening for more news about the murder and the suicide of two friends that ripped their town in half. But unlike her community and their half-baked theories, she spent time with both boys in their last days, and she seems to know them the most. Since they found Daniel’s body, she has become drawn to Isaac, who, even in the most emotional press conferences, seems to possess an otherworldly stillness. It is this surety, this stoicism, that leads her to the trip into town to find Daniel’s home and wait for something, though she’s not sure what that is.

When Isaac discovers a dirty pregnant teenager on his property, he knows that he must act with kindness towards her. He welcomes her into his home and is shocked by the dirt underneath her fingernails and the bloody scratches on her hands. He gives her a bed to stay in for the night and some clean clothes left over from his ex-wife. In an act of kindness, he accepts her flimsy story: a few deceased mothers, a drug-addicted aunt and a random bus trip to Port Furlong. Although Evangeline doesn’t mention that she knows Daniel, she and Isaac strike up a quiet, careful companionship, all while she prepares for motherhood and he attempts to face his grief and anger head-on.

Lorrie lives right next door to Daniel and now Evangeline is Jonah’s mother. While Isaac and his wife, and Lorrie and her husband, were once all friends, their sons growing up and playing alongside one another they were pushed apart by divorce, death and the boys’ friendship dissolving. But now the connection between their sons cannot be avoided. Isaac is desperate to forgive Lorrie for Jonah’s hand in Daniel’s death, but he finds himself behaving rude towards her as she starts to befriend Evangeline and help her navigate her pregnancy. When it becomes clear that Evangeline knew Daniel and Jonah, which she might even be carrying one of their babies, Evangeline, Isaac and Lorrie are thrust into a painful communication that forces them to confront their own relationships with the boys, themselves and each other .

As moving as the book is, I found this book to be a bit different. While it isn’t one of the best books I have read from the murder mystery genre it was definitely one that I would recommend. This book has you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next. I think that this would do great if it was made into a movie so that being said everyone should go check it out.

The Book What Comes After