Friday, March 1, 2019

Dream Student (Dream Mysteries #1), by J.J. DiBenedetto (author), Heather Jane Hogan (narrator)

James J. DiBenedetto, July 2013 (original publication March 2013)

Sara Barnes is a college junior, a pre-med focused on her goal of becoming a doctor, with her life totally under control.

At least, until the dreams start.

Not her own dreams. She never remembers her own dreams. Suddenly, though, she's experiencing other people's dreams. Some are her friends and fellow college students, which does have its problems, but not nearly as alarming as the other ones, the dreams of the serial killer. The killer's face seems vaguely familiar, but the real problem is, she sees he face of the victim in the dreams, and after the dream where the man is driving around in a car, the girl whose face she saw is found dead the next day.

These are not just awful nightmares. She's really experiencing this killer's dreams. She can't ignore it, and who can she tell? What can she do?

She tells her best friend, her roommate, Beth. She tells her new boyfriend, Brian. They are awesome friends, and there's not a scrap of lazy writing about it. DiBenetto totally makes me believe in the steadfast loyalty of Sara's boyfriend, and her best friend, when she is asking them to believe something absolutely, totally crazy, that she knows she would have a hard time taking seriously if it weren't happening to her. He makes me believe in the basic decency of their fellow students, even the ones they have some degree of conflict with.

When another series of dreams ends in another young woman being found dead, Sara knows she has to find a way to do something. When she realizes that one of her classmates is the probable next target, and is able to give her just enough of a warning that she takes the right precautions, she becomes even more driven to find the man and stop him, somehow.

It's the academic year 1989-90, and there are not cell phones everywhere, nor is the internet a big thing yet. At several points I found myself thinking, "why don't they just..." I remembered that no, even a decade or so after my own college years, these things aren't a part of daily life yet. When they realize they might find vital information by checking someone's court case records, the only option the is to figure out what courthouse the case was in. Heck, I had to do that kind of research myself--and I steadily and determinedly encouraged the lawyers I worked for to adopt the marvels of the internet and subscriptions to the right services as they came available. I was a law librarian, in roughly the time that Sara as a pre-med college student is trying to figure this out, without being able to explain to anyone who can help why she needs to know.

As far as I can tell, DiBenedetto, in writing this book set twenty years earlier, didn't drop a single ball on what is pervasive now, and either non-existent or still limited or expensive and not part of student life, at a time we don't, most of us, thing of  as "the old days."

I believe, like, and respect the characters. The plotting, but even more, the careful, textured daily life of the period, is extremely well-done. All in the service of just a good, enjoyable mystery with elements of fantasy and romance.

And that's fantastic.


I may have originally received this audiobook as a gift from the author. I really don't remember. I am, in any case, reviewing it voluntarily.

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