Book Review: One Little Lie

One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

I had overdosed on Kristin Hannah and was looking for a change when I encountered this in the library’s eBook database. I remembered liking another book by this author, though I can’t recall the title now, so I gave it a read.

Description

Upon her father’s retirement, Jane Hardy is promoted to chief of police in Pelican Harbor, Alabama, triggering resentment in one of her deputies. While battling his hostility, she juggles two murder cases and a vigilante, but when FBI arrest her father, he becomes a prime suspect.

Reid Bechtol is famous for his documentaries, especially one he did on cults. His latest involves Jane’s career as a small-town police chief, but his interest is more than professional. His documentaries are personal, and his past intertwines with Jane’s in more ways than she knows.

Characters

I appreciate when authors give tough female characters—police officers, swords women, jedi knights, etc.—depth of emotion. I hate female characters that act like men with boobs, but Coble goes way too far with Jane. In Reid’s perspective, he often comments about how tough she is, but the evidence on the page argues to the contrary. Jane is hyperemotional to an embarrassing degree. Her storyline reads too close to a soap opera for my tastes—lots of emotional drama, but reactive and overblown instead of mature and developed.

Reid’s character is better. He is calm, protective, but also respectful of Jane’s authority. Aside from the budding romance with Jane, his major conflict is deciding how to reveal the truth to his son Will. This is where the author fails.

To begin, Will is way too perfect for a teenager. Coble tries to circumnavigate this by remarking how mature he is compared to other teens, but it still rings hollow. There was so much potential for father-son conflict, but instead, Will accepts his father’s errors after a few calm heart-to-hearts.

Reid’s ex rears her ugly head early on, but the book would have been better without her. I understand wanting to add more conflict for Reid, but the author could have done that by having some actual drama with Will.

Plot

The characters’ backstories were so obvious I was insulted the author waited until the second third to state them openly. On the flip side, the villain was impossible to guess. Usually in a murder mystery, I like to think “I can’t believe I didn’t see that!” In this story, there were zero clues. I felt cheated.

Writing Style

The prose itself is clunky. Reading felt like driving over a rocky mountain road in a Prius (Yes, I’ve done that. It’s not fun). The author should have fired her line editor. This may not bother most readers, but for me, reading this book felt like resisting the urge to right an askew painting, and I’m not even an editor.

Miscellaneous

I didn’t know this book was Christian fiction before I checked it out, but it’s low on the preach-o-meter. The sugary-sweet tone that drives me nuts in Christian fiction is limited. Yes, the characters reflect on and practice their faith, but it feels like real people interpreting their circumstances in light of their beliefs. There are no lengthy sermons or moralizing.

If anything, the author should have developed the characters’ religious beliefs more. Religious reflections are dropped into the storyline like breadcrumbs, but they aren’t integrated enough with the narrative. Contrasting Jane and Reid’s beliefs would have added cohesion.

Reid is Christian, but Jane rejected God after her experience in the cult. A close friend (who, like Reid’s ex, isn’t relevant and whose subplot goes unresolved) tries to teach her the difference between the cult and authentic Christianity, but that should have been Reid’s role. Furthermore, their beliefs only affect the personal side of the story, but the author should have contrasted their different interpretations of human behavior.

For example, Reid could have responded to the adulterer with shock and disgust, while lingering cult trauma would reinforce Jane’s skepticism. Contrasting their beliefs would have made their perspectives more distinct and added a fresh take on the crime.

Conclusion

The book’s genre is Christian Romantic Suspense, of which I am not a regular reader, so take my criticisms with a sprinkle of salt. That said, I enjoy well-written books in almost any genre. The premise of a former cult member-turned-police chief intrigued me, and the plot was sufficiently complex. There were many good elements, but none reached their potential.

The female lead was too emotional, the male leads too perfect, the secondary characters irrelevant, and even the police K9 came across as a pet. The backstories were too obvious and the crime impossible for readers to solve on their own. For a book whose cover sports praise from Lisa Wingate, it disappointed.

This is a first-in-series, so I can’t harp on the unresolved subplots, but I won’t read the next book. Had I paid for it, I would have been upset. As is, I’m glad I checked the eBook out from the library so that I didn’t have to waste gas returning a physical copy.

Want more book reviews? Click HERE to subscribe!

Make your own conclusions: Click the image to purchase from Amazon*

One Little Lie

Suspense I recommend instead (though neither is Christian Romantic Suspense)


*The above are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through them.

Book Review: The Searcher

You know you’re dealing with a big shot when the author’s name is far bigger than the book’s title. This is the first book I have read from this author, but her mastery of tone and tension have added her name to my “read more” list.

The Searcher by Tana French

My first thought after my grandmother handed me this book was, “What’s with the random field on the cover?” After finishing it, however, I can say I have never seen a cover that better captures the tone of the writing.

Cover Description

“Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.

“But then a local kid comes looking for his help. Trey Reddy’s brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Cal wants nothing to do with any kind of investigation, but somehow he can’t make himself walk away.

“Against his will, he discovers that even in the most idyllic small town, secrets lie hidden, people aren’t always what they seem, and trouble can come calling at his door.”

Characters

Cal is the quintessential burnt-out policeman. He has a no-nonsense attitude and a low tolerance for b*llsh*t that pushes him toward a simpler life away from the crime and politics of modern Chicago. Like many divorced men, he doesn’t really understand what went wrong in his marriage, though his experience with Trey sheds some light on it.

Trey is a typical teenager who communicates via a rich variety of shrugs and eye rolls decipherable only to familiar eyes. At once stubborn and vulnerable, Trey simultaneously reminds Cal what it means to be the good guy and forces him to break the rules.

Surrounding these characters are the colorful townsfolk one expects in a small village—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the all three at once.

Plot

The Searcher is slow-burn psychological crime fiction that lures the reader into its depths with tiny morsels of information. The mystery unravels not with wild accusations and dramatic revelations, but with subtle nods and shifty glances. While not action-packed, I still felt compelled to finish it. Though the ending was anti-climactic, I loved the twist in the middle.

Writing Style

French’s style is lyrical, complex, and creepy—like a symphony played in a minor key. The Los Angeles Times said that French, “could make a Target run feel tense and revelatory,” and I agree. Much of the book comprises mundane tasks—fixing a desk, fishing, grocery shopping, watching the flock of rooks in the nearby tree—but the overtone of tension makes it engaging. I’ve never felt so nervous reading about a guy tearing out his wallpaper. The plot didn’t thrill me, and I wasn’t ecstatic about the ending, but I would have finished this book regardless just to continue reading French’s masterfully crafted sentences.

Miscellaneous

As I mentioned above, the cover design at first baffled me, but after finishing the novel, I can say it’s a perfect match.

Conclusion

You know you’re dealing with a big shot when the author’s name is far bigger than the book’s title. This is the first book I have read from this author, but her mastery of tone and tension have added her name to my “read more” list. Set in a colorful Irish town and drenched in tension, The Searcher is perfect for passing time while snowed-in on Halloween (Yes, people who live near the equator, that happens). While I would not recommend it for readers who need action-packed drama, those who appreciate a more subtle approach to crafting mood will love French’s writing style.

Want more book reviews? Click HERE to subscribe!

Click the image to purchase from Amazon*

The Searcher

You may also like


*The above are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through them.

Shadows in the Water

Filled with intrigue driven by heart-pounding suspense, Shadows in the Water weaves a net of competing motives. Cynical India navigates a town full of hypocrites, determined to discover the truth—no matter who gets hurt.

Shadows in the Water by Jo-Anne Tomlinson

I don’t normally read a ton of suspense, but after beta reading more of it recently, I’m developing a taste for it. This is my favorite of the ones I’ve read.

Description

Someone tried to murder India Peters, but that’s not even the biggest news in the beachside community of Army Bay. Brandy Hamilton, desired and despised queen bee, disappeared the same night.


When India wakes up, her memories are missing along with her childhood-friend-turned-hated-nemesis. Somewhere in her foggy brain lies the answer to how India went from social pariah to member of Brandy’s elite circle: Brandy’s sister Sadie, the good twin. Rory, the track star. Ben, the hot boyfriend. Avery, the rich douche. Elton, the cocky loner.


But things in Army Bay are only getting stranger. Her parents, her frenemies, the girl she likes, even the police—they all know more than they’re willing to share. To uncover the truth, India will have to expose the town’s dark secrets no matter who gets hurt.

Characters

Biracial and bisexual India Peters is a cynical teen who learned the hard way that high school can be hell, but she wakes up to discover she’d become someone else. A popular someone who cares about things like free-range chickens. India’s investigation into the past helps her define her present—which India is she? The pariah and stoner or the popular progressive?

Her quest for the truth leads her to interact with the town’s characters. Each person has plenty of motive to harm Brandy, but not everyone is what India expected. The large cast kept me guessing throughout the story, but each character is so unique and well-rounded that I didn’t struggle to keep them straight as I have in similar books.

Plot

With every clue India uncovers come at least a dozen more questions. The more she uncovers about the towns people and their competing motives, the more dangerous her investigation becomes. Even the police are suspect. The plot twists and turns as it careens toward the finish at a pace fast enough to give the reader whiplash, but not so fast as to neglect character development and tension building.

Writing Style

With sharp wit, sarcasm, and an unapologetic use of the f-word, Tomlinson captures an edgy teen voice that fits perfectly with the tension in the story. The prose is clear with creative descriptions that set the tone, a pleasure to read.

Conclusion

Filled with intrigue driven by heart-pounding suspense, Shadows in the Water weaves a net of competing motives. Cynical India navigates a town full of hypocrites, determined to discover the truth—even when her investigation leads her way too close to home. With a large cast of shady characters and enough twists to keep the reader guessing, Shadows in the Water is an excellent addition to teen suspense. I couldn’t put it down.


Want more book reviews? Click HERE to subscribe!


To purchase from Amazon, click below*

Shadows in the Water

You may also like


*These links are Amazon Associate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through them.