As a big podcast fan (admittedly sparked by Serial), I found the premise of this thriller intriguing: a hugely popular podcast has begun exploring the murder of a young woman’s father. The young woman is Josie Buhrman – who has changed her name and removed herself from the midwestern town where it happened, cutting herself off completely from her estranged twin sister Laine and the aunt who raised the two girls when their mother ran away to join a cult following the murder of her husband. Got it so far? I admit I was sort of hooked just reading the blurb about this, so was happy to receive an advance copy from Gallery Books and NetGalley in return for my honest review.
When the book begins, we meet Josie Buhrman, who has spent the last ten years away from her hometown. Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, a man she met while traveling the world in search of – what? Seems like she mostly wanted to just be AWAY and NOT the murder victim’s daughter. But she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past, including her name and she isn’t quite sure how to tell him the truth: “There was a minefield of lies between us, and the only safe thing to do was to say nothing at all.” When she receives word that her mother has died, she heads back to her hometown, where she is confronted by the Sarah Koenig wannabe Poppy Parnell, whose podcast has stirred up a s&%storm questioning the conviction of the neighbor, who was identified by Laine who claimed to have witnessed the killing.
I enjoyed reading the story, and felt some aspects of the characters were well drawn, although the ending was not a surprise. The author cleverly identified a hook that might entice readers, and she has a knack for creating a tense scene, as when Josie goes in search of her sister: “I could hear the feathery tops of weeds brushing against the car’s undercarriage as I slowly inched forward in the darkness, squinting to make out the confines of the overgrown road.” That kind of descriptive writing is enough for me!
I willingly suspended my disbelief about the outcome and the relationships in Josie’s life (both familial and otherwise), and just went along for the ride. Four stars.