With Gone Girl casting a huge shadow across the literary world, it seems like we get a potential “next Gone Girl” hitting the shelves every week.
On the surface, J.T. Ellison’s Lie to Me could be classified as another book trying to be the “next Gone Girl.” But that would sell her new psychological thriller short.
Ethan and Sutton Montclair appear to have a perfect life. Successful writing careers, the nice house, a perfect marriage. But if you pull back the layers a bit, things aren’t quite as perfect as they seem. Sutton is being harassed by a book blogger with an ax to grind, Ethan’s got a severe case of writer’s block and their marriage is on shaky ground from Ethan’s one-night stand and the death of their infant son. When Sutton vanishes one morning, leaving a note for Ethan not to try to find her, suspicion begins to fall firmly on Ethan. The discovery of a burned body that could be Sutton only ratchets up the scrutiny from the authorities and the media.
Ellison does a nice job of layering the tension in Lie to Me. As she peels away the layers of the Montclair marriage, we find out that neither Ethan nor Sutton is quite as innocent or as sweet as they portray themselves to the outside world.
While most of the novel is third-person narration, Ellison includes the occasional chapter from the first-person perspective of the mastermind of things. Determining who is speaking and what their vendetta is against the Montclairs really drives much of the novel
That is until we get the big reveal and things kind of go off the rails a bit.
I won’t ruin anything for anyone. But I can honestly say the first two-thirds of this novel had me gripped, intrigued and not able to turn the pages fast enough to see what development would come next. And then we get to the big reveal and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. I wanted to make the jump with Ellison, but I just couldn’t.
That’s not to say that Lie to Me isn’t a good novel. It is very good. It’s just not a great one. And that’s a shame because, as I said, the first two-thirds of it are completely compelling.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.
When you write a book as successful as The Girl on the Train, expectations for your second novel are going to be through the roof. Paula Hawkins crafted one of the most page-turning novels of the year with Girl.
For her sophomore effort, Hawkins presents another shifting viewpoint mystery/thriller, but this time around readers are given more than three characters viewpoints to follow. With Into the Water, Hawkins attempts to go a bit deeper into the mystery of two drowning in a small town and the impact the crime has on the community. Like many of today’s better mystery writers, Hawkins’ story is not just interested in revealing the solution to the crime but also at the factors that led to the crime being committed and what that means for the characters that inhabit her world. Continue reading
Henrietta Hoffman (better known as Hattie in her small town) wears a lot of hats. Whether it’s honor’s student near the top of her senior class, the loving daughter of her parents or the dutiful girlfriend. But does anyone really know the REAL Hattie Hoffman?
Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be examines a year in the life of Hattie Hoffman as she struggles to find out the role she really wants to play in life. The big problem is that just as Hattie is figuring out who she wants to be, she meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances. Continue reading
The runaway success of “Gone Girl” has created a new sub-genre in the mystery/thriller section. It seems like every other book that comes out these days cover blurb touts it as being in the “same vein as ‘Gone Girl.'”
And while there have been a few books that have come close to capturing the page-turning intensity of Gillian Flynn, there have been more than a few that felt like pale imitations of the original.
For the first third of “Distress Signals,” it feels like Catherine Ryan Howard has tapped into the same vein Flynn did with “Gone Girl.” Only to see it all fall apart the more Adam Dunne digs into the disappearance of his fiance, Sarah. Continue reading
As a rule, I don’t peak ahead at the ending of novels.
But there are some books for which exceptions have to be made. And Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door turned out to be one of those.
When their babysitter cancels at the last minute, Marco convinces his wife Anne that they can leave their infant daughter home alone while they attend a dinner party next door. If they take the baby monitor with them and take turns checking on their daughter every half hour, nothing could possibly go wrong.
Coming back home from the party, they discover the door ajar and their baby kidnapped. The police are called in and things just aren’t adding up on how and who could or would have kidnapped the little girl. As the investigation deepens, secrets about not only Marco and Anne are revealed but also about their neighbors and Anne’s parents. In short, everyone has something to hide when it comes to the kidnapping.
I have to admit that about a tenth of a way into the novel, I had to skip ahead and see how certain events played out. I didn’t want to ruin any of the twists or character revelations (I luckily didn’t) but instead wanted to find make sure the baby didn’t come to any harm. As a new parent, the idea of someone kidnapping an infant daughter gave me the cold sweats and I didn’t want to continue the story if the outcome was extremely negative. Continue reading
I enjoy a good mystery story. So for today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) I decided to look at some of my favorite mysteries.
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
- The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gilbraith
- Playing for the Ashes by Elizabeth George
- Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman
- The Poet by Michael Connelly
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
- Shutter Island by Dennis LaHane
- The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
- Snow White Must Die by Nele Nuehaus
It seem like a lot of the mystery novels I’m drawn to these days feature an unreliable narrator (or narrators in the case of The American Girl). Whether this is due to the success of novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train has encouraged publishers to jump on the unreliable narrator bandwagon or that it’s just that I’ve become more aware of this particular narrative hook, I’m not sure.
What I do know is that, at this point, it takes a lot to make an unreliable narrator story stand out to me.
Kate Horsley’s The American Girl was able to do that. Well, at least it was able to do that for the first hundred or so pages. Continue reading