In trying to maintain my personal goal of 52 books read for the year, this week’s review is for Don’t Go, by New York Times best-selling author, Lisa Scottoline.
Too often successful (and popular) authors reach a point where their books become formula. Jazz-up the characters, change the setting, but a couple of chapters in, the voices begin to sound like old friends. The heroine begins to sound too much like a heroine from a previous book with a name change. And although the plot may be a bit different, the twist at the end is predictable, because deep down, you know you’ve read something similar before and are subconsciously expecting it.
Lisa Scottoline has been entertaining us with her writing for a long time, certainly long enough to fall into the category of ‘burned out’ writer. But, she doesn’t. Don’t Go is as original as if it were her first novel. I’ve read many of her books and this one did not have that old familiar, recycled feel to it. As a matter of fact, by page 80-something, I thought I had it figured out. By page 190, I realized my initial guess was wrong, but now I knew where it was actually going. By the end, I realized I had been way off all the way through. She is a master at making the reader think it’s a pat story, a just-has-to end a certain way tale. But look out for the sharp turn up ahead!
The story opens with Chloe’s death. Since I had not had time to know, like, or sympathize with her, I didn’t want to club the author over the head for killing off one of my favorite characters. I felt sorry for her and her situation and for those close to her, but at that point, only from a distance.
I thought her husband’s emotions rang true. He seemed to pass between them as anyone would, sometimes grappling with two at a time. When he learns the secret she took to her grave, he still acts as one would expect. Between what he has seen at war and what has happened on the home front it’s no wonder this guy didn’t go bonkers, so his often times erratic behavior can easily be explained and anticipated.
After Chloe’s death, her sister Danielle and brother-in-law Bob are all too happy to take care of Mike and Chloe’s infant daughter, Emily. And I do mean ‘all too happy’, which is probably why at page 80, I thought her sister was (at least in part) responsible for Chloe’s death. (It also didn’t help that in the first chapter, while Chloe was dying, she thought Danielle had entered the house only to leave without helping her) The author nudged us down a particular path through the characters and to me, that’s an example of the difference between an experienced writer and an amateur.
There were a few things that didn’t quite ring true, or weren’t necessary, or felt a bit contrived, but they did not take away from the story – at all. (Example: At the very end, Mike finds a half-empty bottle of his friend, Jim’s, brand of liquor among the things taken from the house after Chloe died proving that Jim had been there. Jim had already admitted to being there for an article and the man Chloe had the affair with had already been identified. Jim admits to trying to seduce Chloe, but she resists his advances. So, unless I missed something, I didn’t see what that added to the story).
I can’t say I’ve ever read a Scottoline book I haven’t enjoyed. There have been one or two that although good, didn’t keep me up all night reading. I was content to read until I was tired and continue in the morning. Don’t Go kept me up. It’s written in short chapters, which I prefer, and the pace was fast enough that it kept me turning, but not so fast as to leave my tired mind in the dust. The voices are distinct and the flow of the book is steady and comfortable. One thing I find many less experienced authors doing is filling their books with fluff. Unnecessary, unimportant, and uninteresting filler to bulk up a book. This novel had none of that. No need to skim long passages of narration, no lulls to bore. Nice and tight.
I only spotted two errors (I’m a stickler – can’t help it), which isn’t bad considering how many some books have. I list them so in the event the author or her editor sees this, they can be fixed in the Kindle edition. (I have the hardcover)
- Page 189 – 1st Mike felt the his love for Chloe coming back. (Remove the word ‘the’)
- Page 273 – Line 19. The last thing you want is a thirteen-year-old running before he’s not healed. (Remove the word ‘not’)
I’ve read a number of mediocre books lately and this was a nice change from that. A solid read and a firm 4.5 stars. Highly recommended. Check it out here.
Next review – Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky