William Morrow | 2018
Opening Hook: Putting a cold case in the microwave.
Main Character: When bad men do evil in sweater vests.
Plot Twisty-ness: The reader gets Punk’d.
It’s such a bummer to read a book by an author you hear nothing but praise for, only to walk away from that reading experience thinking your time has been thoroughly wasted. All I have in my head is like why? And like don’t? And like why again?
When I’m reading a new-to-me author, I seem to have a habit of choosing the one book that makes all the fans go, “That one’s not their best…THESE OTHER ONES THOUGH!!”
I’m not done with Macmillan just yet because I’m not a completely horrible person & also I think I spent real human dollars on another of her books and it’s currently sitting on my bookshelves… but this book is getting a big UGH from me.
Cody Swift has one of the hottest true crime podcasts around, Time to Tell. It focuses on his search for what really happened to his two childhood best friends twenty-years earlier when they were killed and the intellectually-disabled target of their bullying, Sidney Noyce, is convicted of their murders.
In the present day, Sidney Noyce (think Brendan Dassey, but slower,) has taken his own life in prison and then a new body is discovered at the same site the two boys’ were found decades before. Cody uses the renewed spotlight on the case to sell his podcast with the goal of finding the real killer.
I love the idea, but the execution is severely lacking for me as a reader.
For one, despite the shifting POVs, Cody Swift is really the main character of this story but he’s given almost zero character development and I fault the podcast episode-style his chapters are written in. It felt like the narrative was relying too heavily on that gimmick and not putting any effort into the emotional aspects.
Swift comes across as bland and boring and the podcast is dry. Nearly every episode starts with someone exclaiming “it’s really you! You’ve gotten so big! Look at how you’ve grown,” etc., etc… And not even the “Oh no, someone is threatening me!” stuff was working for me, which boils down to everything taking place off the page and told as a recounting of events instead of a real-time menace. That messed with the suspense for me.
I’m going to get spoiler-y now because I want to rant about some things, so just skip to the end of the review if you care to avoid any details about the substance of the main plot.
Click for ranting
Okay, so first of all, there is ZERO satisfaction in reading a mystery novel, putting together the clues and wanting to find the killer, when the KILLER IS ALREADY DEAD.
What kind of trickery is that? It’s completely unsatisfying.
But even worse, the reveal of the killer is so vague that I wasn’t even really sure I was getting the answer I thought I was getting. It was such a letdown, just a bunch of *fart noises.*
I’m not totally sure what was up with Detective Fletcher. What was he supposed to be? A corrupt cop? Guilt-plagued? Just interested in power? Seriously, what the fuck was up with his character arc? Where did his motivations really lay? It was so vague and contradictory. He comes across as determined to find the real murderer and continually flashes back to one of the young boys lying dead in his arms as if it’s an emotional thing for him, but then he destroys evidence, covers up for criminal/PR guy Felix, fucks around with witnesses, frames a lead investigator to have him kicked off the case and pursues Sidney Noyce for the crimes, knowing full well it’s bullshit.
But the explanation for all of that is????????????
Another thing lacking explanation is the third body found decades later. At first, the reader is supposed to believe that this is a newly discovered crime, totally unrelated to the previous two deaths, they just so happen to have taken place right next to each other. Except we find out as it unravels that the boys were killed because they watched the first murder happen.
Why would a killer hide that body and leave the two boys out in the open? How did no one EVER, over the course of the first murder investigation, manage to find this catalyst murder victim that was literally RIGHT THERE at the crime scene? How over a 20-year period was this never discovered?
Lastly, fuck Cody. Turns out the bastard knew all along what actually happened to his friends and he just used the new body/renewed interest in the case to launch what he saw as a winning media strategy to make him rich and famous. And he was working with Felix the whole time. I’m trying to think back to if there were any red herrings in any of Cody’s podcast chapters, and honestly, I don’t think there were. Leaving the chapters to serve as a giant misdirection, except there was no way for the reader to know this so really, every one of those chapters is just pointless lies.
The “twist” in the end was also a completely unknowable element, therefore not being a twist at all because how the fuck is the reader supposed to play along?
Again, I have to say, this was all just a fucking trick on the reader. I don’t like that style of writing. It ceases to be a mystery to solve.
I guess this book was just completely disappointing and kind of depressing, and the character of Jessica Paige was completely pointless and her chapters only served to confuse me more about what the point of everything was.
All these bad people, dead children and tragedy of justice, but there’s very little satisfaction for the reader to hold onto in the end.
The red herrings were lazy and the attempts to make them relevant weak. None of the characters were likeable, and the podcast-style chapters made this a slow, dull read. And holy hell, why was this not titled Time to Tell!? It’s driving me crazy.
Me no likey.
I’m an outlier in my opinion, as per usual, so take my bad attitude for what it’s worth.
From author Gilly Macmillan comes this original, chilling and twisty mystery about two shocking murder cases twenty years apart, and the threads that bind them.
Twenty years ago, eleven-year-olds Charlie Paige and Scott Ashby were murdered in the city of Bristol, their bodies dumped near a dog racing track. A man was convicted of the brutal crime, but decades later, questions still linger.
For his whole life, filmmaker Cody Swift has been haunted by the deaths of his childhood best friends. The loose ends of the police investigation consume him so much that he decides to return to Bristol in search of answers. Hoping to uncover new evidence, and to encourage those who may be keeping long-buried secrets to speak up, Cody starts a podcast to record his findings. But there are many people who don’t want the case—along with old wounds—reopened so many years after the tragedy, especially Charlie’s mother, Jess, who decides to take matters into her own hands.
When a long-dead body is found in the same location the boys were left decades before, the disturbing discovery launches another murder investigation. Now Detective John Fletcher, the investigator on the original case, must reopen his dusty files and decide if the two murders are linked. With his career at risk, the clock is ticking and lives are in jeopardy…