Maybe you don’t know your neighbors as well as you thought you did . . .
“This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.”
In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses–and into the owners’ computers as well–learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.
Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?
In this neighborhood, it’s not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide . . .
Welcome to our latest buddy review! Once again Andge and I have banded together to review another book, and will be providing our dual comments here! This book by Shari Lapena was a bit more of a different genre than we expected. While we have set up the review in our usual thriller format, we both found out that it wasn’t exactly the traditional type of thriller, and found it to be a hybrid between a mystery and a thriller. We will discuss more details below:
Pacing and Suspense Build-Up
Fives: I think Andge and I both agree on this, and it’s that the little synopsis given for this book is rather misleading. I was definitely under the impression that it was going to revolve around the boy and his breaking into homes. This was 100% not the case. The murder was really the whole contentious point in this story, and the source of all the drama and tension. Sweeping that aside, the pacing was very up and down. The problems and tensions that were introduced were often resolved fairly quickly thereafter. The tension wasn’t really a slow build until the end, though of course there were elements of that as well. I would say overall the book read mostly like a mystery novel, with elements of a thriller.
Andge: Yes, I’d have to agree. The pacing just didn’t work for me when we switch from one person’s perspective to another, sometimes featuring only a few paragraphs for one POV. This omniscient third person POV also made everything less mysterious in some ways since we know certain secrets before other key characters do. However, we do get to see how the revelation of such secrets unfold and that sometimes was quite juicy.
Fives: This was actually probably my favourite part of the book. Though I did initially find it a bit strange how this book is a hybrid between a mystery and thriller, I did overall enjoy how it was executed. It doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of either genre (which is what I was originally expecting), but I think in its own right, it does well. There were many moving pieces in this whole story, and I felt that they were managed well. The plot was fairly intricate and though I may not have agreed with everything that happened, I think I felt like it was effectively executed.
Andge: I might be a bit pickier but this definitely was more of a mystery to me. It did read fast as it’s not a super long book, and the back and forth between POVs allows a perspective that seems to be always going somewhere. I like that we get introduced to many people within the neighborhood that knew the victim, which also gives us more viable suspects to potentially weed through. I can see the craftsmanship in the story elements, but sometimes it just didn’t fit together as well as I had expected from a bestseller like Shari.
Fives: Most of the characters were relatable and appropriately suspicious. Andge and I definitely had a hard time predicting what would happen in this book. We threw many possibilities out there but let’s just say we were not too convinced by anything we suggested. But the characters were all individually well-crafted to be unique and a meaningful part of the novel, with very few throwaways and at least some meaning in (almost) every character, I felt that the overall design was good.
Andge: What Fives said. Best not to give too many secrets away, hmm? But guessing in mysteries based on the people introduced, whether in large or small, is always my favorite part.
Fives: I wasn’t terribly convinced by this ending. I thought it was appropriate and did make enough sense at the end, but I wasn’t super impressed. If any of you remember our review on Don’t Look for Me, I found it to be a very similar situation where yes the ending was quite the surprise, but was it meaningful and impactful? Perhaps not. I wouldn’t say it was a bad ending, but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I was hoping I would.
Andge: I’ll say I didn’t see the ending coming until near the end, and there were definitely parts that felt a little random like I couldn’t grasp this was happening. It’s not my favourite ending, that’s for sure. We also have a little tidbit thrown out at the absolute end that leaves me wondering why that was the chosen way to close out the book. But maybe that’s what some people enjoy, so who’s to say?
And that’s a wrap everyone! If there’s any other books that you’d want to recommend for the both of us to review together, please continue to let us know in the comments below. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next buddy read. Another Kate Quinn may be on the horizon…stay tuned!