Thursday, April 5, 2018

Book Review: Not That I Could Tell

Author: Jessica Strawser
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

"Full of slow-burning intrigue, Strawser's second novel will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies and Jennifer Kitses' Small Hours." ―Booklist

*Book of the Month Club Selection

An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn in Not That I Could Tell, the next page-turner from Jessica Strawser, author of Almost Missed You.

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce―and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her―and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions―especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors―and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

The story mainly goes back and forth between two main perspectives: Clara’s and Izzy’s. While the story takes off right after a bunch of neighborhood women gather together for wine around a bonfire, it only follows Clara and Izzy’s point of views after the disappearance of Kristin, one of the women in the local community. I was, first of all, disappointed in this. There were more women at that bonfire – what about their thoughts?

However, I enjoyed Clara’s chapters far more than Izzy’s. Izzy’s background and reasons for moving to Yellow Springs were re-hashed and re-hashed over and over until she became a whiny character to me. Izzy’s chapters had no depth and no intriguing parts for me. However, Clara’s chapters were where I felt that the most suspenseful and mysterious things happened. I loved seeing Kristin, the missing woman, through Clara’s eyes. Unlike Izzy, Clara actually spends her chapters going over Kristin’s life, their conversations, and really tries to help solve the mystery of her disappearance.

Then there is the character of Paul, Kristin’s soon-to-be ex-husband. Paul was creepy, unlikeable, and totally untrustworthy. I liked that his character was added to the story. I felt that he added a bit of suspense and kept me, and the other characters, on edge.

For a mystery/thriller, I felt that the writing lacked suspense, lacked the fast pace that I am used to with mystery novels, and lacked the ability to keep me guessing. I felt that the pace was slow, partly because I did not like Izzy as a character and partly because I wanted to know more about Kristin than I was given. I felt, as the reader, I was not given enough information or backstory about Kristin in order to make speculations about what could have happened to her. I wanted more and more to be revealed as the story progressed, but it fell short for me. We are given some clues, but by the time they were revealed, I had already guessed most of them.

Ever wonder what your friends really think of you?

"It's no great accomplishment to get someone to believe a lie. It's not that hard, really. Look at me: doctor's wife, working mom, good neighbor. You've already summed me up, haven't you? You're already filling in the blanks. But whatever you're writing there, it's not the truth. And that's fine by me. It's easier, knowing you don't know me at all."

“The missing, the hidden, the murdered and the other wise lost never get to tell their sides of the story. It’s the last and sometimes cruelest injustice.”

I won’t lie…the big twist is quite remarkable and made the story better for me. However, I was not impressed with most other parts of the novel. I am such a character driven reader and the characters just did not feel fleshed out to me; I did not connect to them, feel for them, or really care what happened to them. The only character that I wanted to know more about was Kristin, and I just didn’t get that information fast enough. When I pick up a thriller/mystery that is pitched as the next Big Little Lies, I expect it to be fast-paced and completely guttural when it comes to the plot and character development. This felt more like contemporary fiction than the mystery/thriller that it is pitched as.

No comments:

Post a Comment