I'm on a bit of a mystery kick these days. I've got a few rather "heavy" books I'm working on, but I'm not always in the right headspace or environment to be completely engrossed in a book. When that's the case, I go to my comfort food: mysteries and espionage for a read that I know I'll finish easily. This one came courtesy of a local librarian. Librarians are great friends to cultivate. They'll put books on hold or ask if I've read something they think I'd be interested in, and this one -- in particular -- always makes sure I have some lighter reading handy when I leave the library. My only real regret is I don't need to go to the library as much out now that various digital formats are available at a touch. Oh well, on to the book.
I had no preconceptions. All I knew was the title. I'll confess I didn't even read the blurb until just now, after I finished it. You don't need to know much more either. Two girls go missing from a southern, insulated town, and the cast of characters is stuck in the middle of a town drama for the second time in a decade.
This is a fairly straightforward whodunnit with a slight twist -- it's told backwards, day by day. The narrator tells us at the end why she "had" to do it this way. I believed her. It also made for a more interesting book. The audience knows things before the characters, including our narrator Nicolette Farrell.
There's a messy love story and a fractured family at the heart of this mystery. Both seemed quite possible -- especially given Nic's ability to rationalize behavior and don a facade for each new situation. The ending of the love story was much easier to predict that the whodunnit parts of the book. I had no idea what would happen with the family. All in all, I wasn't trying to figure things out. I was very content to simply fall into the story and go with the flow.
Given that, I'd say the writing felt rather effortless. It was easy; like I was just hearing the tale from rather than reading a book. That's a nifty trick when the author is using a backwards chronology and feeding us new pieces that need to fit within the puzzle. A few times I stopped reading wondering exactly what the process is for writing a book like this, but I quickly got back to reading. Whatever the work for her, I'm glad she did it. The book would have suffered if it had been told beginning to end.
Back to Nicolette Farrell... she's trying at times, but I don't need to like characters in a book. Good thing -- I was highly peeved at her a good deal of the time. She's young. She's stuck emotionally. I found it tough to give her a break as she ran headstrong through everyone and everything.
Possibly the most effective parts were the way she managed to make the small town feel just on the verge of strangling the characters and me at times. I vowed aloud never to be romantic about small towns again aloud at least once. They all felt stuck, and they were in many ways, but perhaps it wasn't the town so much as their actions.
Not a life-changer, but a pretty good comfort food snack.