Thursday, April 5, 2018

Review: Not That I Could Tell - Jessica Strawser

Not That I Could Tell
by Jessica Strawser
Published: March 27, 2018
Genre: Women's Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

4 Stars

It was one night by the fire, baby monitors turned up and the wine flowing as five neighborhood friends laughed and shared with one another. Come Monday, one of them is missing and no one knows why or where she might be. Clara dives in, turning herself into the fortress who must protect everyone, her mind constantly filled with thoughts of missing Kristin and her maybe-not-so-nice ex-husband Paul. Izzy feels bereft, her first start of friendship in the small town marred by the ending of that first get together and the aching separation of her family pushing her to seek companionship elsewhere. With detectives lurking around and Kristin's ex-husband suddenly at home all the time, two friends tread the water of uncertainty.

Women's Fiction, Domestic Thriller, whatever you want to call it, Not That I Could Tell is a smart, engaging novel about neighborhood friends and the secrets they keep. I live in a small town, so I immediately connected with Clara and Izzy, though their personal lives are very different. Married with children, Clara is the mom who seems to care a lot about everyone else around her. Most affected by the missing friend she spends much of her time thinking over scenarios and how she found herself in the spotlight of the case. Izzy is single, nursing a broken heart from a secret love and trying to find her footing in a new place. She comes across as young and naive, an easy friend and an even easier target. I liked Jessica Strawser's choice to use these two as the narrators of the story, their viewpoints of the evening and the events that followed it very different. Though I would bill this as a suspense, as missing Kristin is the base of the story, the story is really best when just reading about the background of the characters and the steps each takes to move on as time continues to go by. For some, that may be uninteresting, for me, I love a good bit of friendly drama. The situations the characters find themselves in could easily happen to anyone and the secondary characters felt very true to the people you might meet on the sidewalk of any small town.

Not That I Could Tell seems to be one of those books that readers are either loving or feeling just meh about. I'm one of the readers that really enjoyed it, but I like women's fiction with a hint of suspense. I enjoy novels about neighbors, groups of friends, and the secrets they keep in order to maintain a level of normalcy they've each come to expect from one another. I found Not That I Could Tell entertaining and I was engaged from beginning to end, the predictability of it didn't even bother me. I'd definitely suggest this book to Women's Fiction fans and I think it could easily be a great book club read.

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