PARK RIDGE: A Senior Center Murder is an inverted detective story (think Columbo). The reader sits in on conversations between the four murdering card players, listens in on each murderer’s internal monologue, and waits anxiously to see if the detective can discover who did the crimes. The reader’s involvement is challenged when one of the perpetrators goes uncharged with murder at the end of the book.
In the tradition of books by Ruth Rendell and PD James, PARK RIDGE: A Senior Center Murder, reads like a psychological suspense novel (a whydunnit, not a who). Individual murderer’s motivations are presented through backstories revealed intermittently via videotaped interviews by students from Northwestern University. The transformation of the card players’ group-dynamic forms the crux of the novel: moving from the initial shock at the impulsive first murder, to conscious concensus to conceal the guilty party, on to the determination to commit their own deliberate attacks with the support of the others.
The center director’s response, when confronted with her responsibilty for fostering the conflict between “active” participants and “passive” card-players, foregrounds the issue of treating seniors with respect as fellow human beings.