Called to look into the death of sixteen-year old Julie Whitmire, NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is quick to dismiss the death as a suicide. But after political pressure is placed on the department by Julie’s high profile, wealthy and politically connected parents, Hatcher and her partner are forced to dig a bit deeper and quickly discover that things aren’t necessarily as black and white as they originally assumed.
The theme of “never assume” is prevalent in Alafair Burke’s newest installment in the Ellie Hatcher series, Never Tell. Filled with a variety of suspects, this procedural suspense thriller has it’s moments but Burke ultimately falls short of the other pantheon of mystery novelists today like Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly or Laura Lippman.
Part of this is the way in which clues are disseminated in the context of the story. Whereas Lippman, George and Connelly pepper in clues that may or may not pay off later, Burke only throws in clues as each red herring in the novel is revealed. It makes the revelations and their impact on the novel less interesting than they could be and denies the reader the opportunity to fully play along with Hatcher in solving the central mystery.
That’s not to say that Never Tell is a terrible novel. It’s a well done, enjoyable enough procedural thriller. But it’s not quite the substantial mystery meal I was hoping for, based on my reading of other novels by Burke.