Severn House Publishers | 2018
Opening Hook: The horror of a one night stand.
Main Character: Crying in the shallow end of the pool.
Plot Twisty-ness: Twists are wrapped in unnecessary information, inside of personal drama and cemented in my disappointment.
*deep, heavy sigh* Goddamnit, you guys. I really wanted to like this. I have been intrigued by this one for a while. I received a copy from NetGalley and then the author sent me a signed copy. Ms. O’Connell said she liked my honest, to the point reviews and then dared me that I wouldn’t be able to figure out the twist in this one. I said, “challenge accepted.”
So, I hate to write a negative review, but I’m going to anyway because Ms. O’Connell was probably at least half prepared for it. I will say this though, I didn’t figure out the twist until just before it started to unfold.
One point from Hufflepuff, on a technicality.
But, the reason why I didn’t figure it out is because the narrative is such a jumbled up mess, and is taken in the wrong direction at every feasible opportunity, that there was literally no way for most readers to find the clues and the red herrings, if there even were any.
This book is presented as a twisted mystery. A bachelorette party ends with one friend murdered. But what category this really falls into is women’s fiction. There just happens to be a murdered friend, and her death is used as an excuse to explore a myriad of personal issues.
The first 150 pages of the book are chock-full of dramatized, personal background information on all the friends of the murdered woman, Angie. This was hella dense reading. It was clunky and obvious – information dumping with zero finesse. I found most of it was either unnecessary data that didn’t really progress the story forward, or information that would have been better suited seamlessly worked into dialogue or scenes that were progressing the story forward. And by that I mean, the mystery of who killed Angie.
Instead, we get to read through relationship conversation/arguments, someone’s husband being gay, a bunch of people cheating, questioning an upcoming wedding and fretting over possibly being pregnant. And multiple scenes detailing overbearing, unloving rich parents that literally had nothing to do with the outcome of the story. Nor did those scenes resonate in such an emotional way that it hooked me or invested me in the characters’ lives.
When the book opened with Maggie waking up after her bachelorette party to a phone call from her friend saying, “I have terrible news! Angie has been murdered!” and Maggie replied something along the lines of, “That’s devastating, but I also have terrible news! I cheated!” – that’s when I knew something was very off with the tone of the book.
The characters were unlikable. Their reactions were unlikable. And their personal issues were shallow and uninteresting in comparison to a fucking murder investigation that hardly got any page time. This was so lopsided to me and I just wanted these bitches to shut it.
At the centre of everything, telling the story from a first-person POV (everything else is 3rd person) is the character of Maggie, the bride-to-be. I have no fucking idea why Maggie is the main character. Her personal issues only had a cursory connection to the murder and the people involved. Truthfully, you could have written this novel from the perspective of Suzanne and Vince, with Kelly being a wannabe detective, and everything else could have been reduced in emphasis in order to plant hints for the reader to pick up on, and produce a greater twist ending that didn’t rely on epilogues.
There were so many opportunities to really bulk up the misdirection and clues, that were ultimately missed because we were instead going to wedding showers and listening to Maggie stress about why she hasn’t gotten her period yet.
Because so much time was spent on personal background, I found the last part of the novel to be rushed and disjointed. Information important to solving the crime is only introduced when the book is almost over. And things that try to keep characters relevant are seemingly thrown in out of nowhere. Kelly, for instance, is apparently super into being a detective, but the first time it’s really mentioned, or focussed on with any kind of significance, is with like 60 pages left in the book. I won’t give any spoilers, but if you’re looking for the killer to be introduced as a character at any obvious point, keep waiting.
This is a disappointment for me. As a women’s fiction novel it barely works because the characters aren’t likable, and the emotional depth and captivation didn’t exist for me in their personal drama.
And as a mystery, it’s a letdown because the emphasis was put on the Sex and the City aspects of the story instead of on the murder of a human being, which in my opinion, is always going to make personal issues seem shallow.
It’s too bad because the case itself was interesting. And if this book had focussed on the murder, focussed on the motive and played the relevant personal drama around that, you could have had a twisted, satisfying domestic thriller. I can see the potential, so the execution, for me, is a little frustrating.
I know people who liked this and told me, “wait, it gets better.” And I guess that’s technically true. The ending of the book is better than the first half because it focuses on what it should have all along, if you were expecting to read a mystery. But for me, “it gets better” is a cop-out. If the ending can get better than the first half can be made better as well. “It gets better” just means something went wrong that should have been addressed. I don’t give points for being disjointed in quality. As if anyone would think I would.
I do give points for potential though. I wish this had been better because it could have been.
If you’re into personal relationship drama with a hint of mystery, you might really like this. For me, it felt lopsided. Murder victims are always more interesting, and more dramatic, than “oh, no I’m so scared to get married!” I’ve never read a book that was able to pull off making the personal drama more riveting than dead body drama.
Six friends. A bride to be. One murder. Too many secrets.
After drinking too much at her bachelorette party, Maggie Trueheart wakes to find a stranger in her bed. To make matters worse, a phone call brings the devastating news that her friend Angie was murdered some time after they parted ways the night before.
Kelly Delaney, who left the party early, is the first of Maggie’s friends to face questions from Chicago homicide detective Ron O’Reilly. After taking a closer look at the other women who attended the party, O’Reilly concludes that at least some of them are lying.
As the clock ticks down to the wedding day and more shocking secrets are revealed, the murderer zeros in on another one of the girls. Can the killer be stopped before there is another victim?
book source: the publisher via NetGalley, and the author, in exchange for an honest review.