2.5 stars The first third of this book was so engrossing. A woman is accused of murdering her two children--but Ruth is not your typical mother, and s2.5 stars The first third of this book was so engrossing. A woman is accused of murdering her two children--but Ruth is not your typical mother, and she will not garner the usual sympathy, because she's always perfectly made up and she drinks in excess and she takes a lot of lovers and she's--gasp--a cocktail waitress. I was interested in this portrait of a woman who is judged so harshly by her outward appearance, particularly during the 40s; for some women, careful clothes and makeup are armor used to mask what's going on inside, even during the most stressful times.
But that is pretty much the only thought-provoking idea to come out of this. I have no idea what happened, except that the last two thirds of this character study got derailed by an ineffectual, not-very-bright, off-putting journalist and a terribly inept mystery that is littered with uninteresting people with half-hearted motivations and very little conviction. (Not to mention a couple of pretty spectacular info-dump interviews shoe-horned in late in the game.) There are a few brief moments when you catch a glimpse of what this book could have been through Ruth's private grief, but they come early on and are quickly forgotten. The kids' brutal (though non-explicit) murders barely register, because they're merely props like everything else.
In the end, what's clearly meant to be an examination of slut-shaming and a challenge of feminine ideals still misses the mark; it doesn't really go anywhere, and both the characters and the reader leave the book unchanged. A huge miss as a suspense novel and a missed opportunity as both character study and as feminist commentary. ...more
I've seen this book classified as both "thriller" and "horror." It's neither thrilling nor horrifying. While the beginning was promising, this felt liI've seen this book classified as both "thriller" and "horror." It's neither thrilling nor horrifying. While the beginning was promising, this felt like a ton of set-up without any payoff; a week after finishing it I'm already struggling to recall anything remotely interesting that happened.
Not horrible, just...extremely underwhelming.
Audiobook notes: narrators were fine. Though the two actors weren't given that much to do, frankly.
Audio review copy was provided by the publisher....more
1.5 stars Uninspired writing, loose plotting, unconvincing leaps in "intuitive" investigative work, reliance on coincidences to further hero's success1.5 stars Uninspired writing, loose plotting, unconvincing leaps in "intuitive" investigative work, reliance on coincidences to further hero's success, cliche interdepartmental strife, insulting portrayals of most of the police force in order to prop up the savant psychological profiler, half-hearted characters, thoroughly uninteresting romantic relationships, mildly annoying sexist and anti-LGBT comments (without payoff/nuance (view spoiler)[and yes, I'm aware of the author's orientation, which makes this doubly surprising. I'm sure the inclusion was meant to show what prejudices people have to face, but this wasn't conveyed well in the way the characters were written (hide spoiler)]), and violence that's somewhat graphic/meant to be shocking, but fails to punch you in the emotional gut.
I admit fully that this book suffers the unfortunate timing of being read a day after I reread the first two books in the Jack Caffery series, which are incredibly violent and sadistic, but also contain well-plotted, well-written mysteries, expertly detailed police and medical examiner work, layered but restrained character development, and some of the most genuinely sad and haunting story arcs I've ever read.
That series is also filled with crazy tension, unlike this limp thing. No surprises here at all.
I also don't really care about anyone in this book, except the one victim POV, but only in the most abstract sense because she's relegated to a teen character that seems written by marking off checkboxes. Also, portraying all the cartoonish sicko's victims as virgins ripe for sex and fame leaves a bad taste in my mouth, since they don't get any more developed than that. They--and we--deserved better.
Second book I've tried from this author, I don't even remember the first from several years back. That's it for me....more
"You see it in all animals - the female of the species is more deadly than the male."
4.5 stars Holy shit, this is good. It sounds like it's going to b"You see it in all animals - the female of the species is more deadly than the male."
4.5 stars Holy shit, this is good. It sounds like it's going to be a revenge thriller, and it is--but it's also a searing takedown of rape culture and a merciless examination of the way violence begets violence. Riveting prose, three clear POVs, and a relentless story that doesn't try to provide answers, but forces you to think about the things we excuse legally and socially. In a year in which we've stood by and watched Brock Turner get a slap on the wrist, seen serial abusers publicly disparage the victims they attacked, and witnessed the repeated objectification of women on a national platform, this could not be more timely. I wish this book were in the hands of all teenagers, boys and girls, for the invaluable conversation piece that it is. There are a fair number of contemporary YA "issue" novels that deal with rape or abuse, but this one, in the guise of a thriller, hits home intellectually and emotionally in a way I haven't seen before.
But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.
There are a few things you have to accept for the purposes of the story, the biggest of which is a logistical issue (view spoiler)[namely, that physically, it's not that easy to do the things Alex did to Comstock (hide spoiler)]. I'm okay with looking past that, however, because the author provides enough convincing detail to make it worthwhile. The only thing that really niggles me a bit (aside from a slightly rushed ending) is that, in my view, Alex's feelings for Jack develop and progress a bit too quickly to fit the near-feral, loner mindset she was in. There's definitely chemistry between them, but I was still never fully convinced the two of them would have been a thing that quickly, especially considering his background and baggage. However, I liked that Alex didn't judge Jack or other girls for his past, I liked the way a real obstacle came between them (view spoiler)[that is, that he had a real problem absorbing the disturbing information she revealed to him; too many books let the BF/GF give the MC a pass (hide spoiler)], and I liked the fantastic way the story ended. OVARIES OF STEEL, Ms. McGinniss.
Bonus: there isn't the faintest whiff of the type of pretentious posturing and tiresome smoke-and-mirrors plotting that's become so popular in YA thrillers lately. (I'm looking at you, We Were Liars.) This book has things to say, and the writing cuts like a razor so that words nearly bleed off the page.
I'm really pissed off at the weirdly quirky cover art for this book, however. WTF is that? It does absolutely no justice to the intensity of the blistering words and emotions inside. This book is full of feminine rage, and while some readers might flinch at the violence within, I think it's rage that's been justly earned.
Trigger warnings for violence, sexual and otherwise....more
Started off pretty well, but eventually it became apparent that the characterizations would stay flat and the plot would stay underdeveloped. This booStarted off pretty well, but eventually it became apparent that the characterizations would stay flat and the plot would stay underdeveloped. This book just seemed sillier and sillier and less sincere as it went along, which are the last things I'd want to think of a story about child kidnapping, rape, and imprisonment. I've read plenty on such scenarios, both fictional and real, and ranging from serious explorations to pulpy airport paperbacks, and this one scales low whether you're judging on writing or thrills or compassion or insight.
Ugh. I feel such dislike at this particular moment that I think the 2 stars are rather generous. We'll see if they stay intact. If you're at all interested in this book, I'd suggest reading Living Dead Girl instead.
A finished copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Also, what is it about terrible thrillers and their penchant for having the villains be obsessed with dolls? It's not even creepy as it's meant to be, it comes off like a ridiculous attempt to manipulate reader reactions rather than anything based on real menace, research, or emotion.
It's no exaggeration to say that you've been, as a whole, my favorite publisher for my entire reading life. Your G.P.Putnam's Sons imprinDear Penguin,
It's no exaggeration to say that you've been, as a whole, my favorite publisher for my entire reading life. Your G.P.Putnam's Sons imprint has also published many distinguished authors and books, among them the classic LORD OF THE FLIES and Liane Moriarty, one of my recent favorites.
How disappointing it is, therefore, to find a book like THE GIRL BEFORE in your slate this year. The premise for this thriller is intriguing--a young woman finds out her husband is not what she thought--but the execution is an embarrassment. The characters are cartoony, the heroine is unbelievably naive (unsympathetically, frustratingly so), the action is sketched in, the suspense is non-existent (you know from page 2 pretty much what has happened to the MC), and the writing is painfully, excruciatingly simplistic. I understand fully where the story is going, but I just don't care enough about these people, and am so annoyed by them, that it's not worth the effort to continue. And a subject like child trafficking deserves better treatment than this.
This book would be an irritation for someone who paid for a pulpy mass market paperback or even 99 cents for a self-published book, let alone one who forked over $15 for trade paperback from a top 5 publisher, with all the editorial discernment and help that that entails. For that price, the story and writing need to be stellar.
Please reconsider your standards for future releases of this kind. This effort is unworthy of Penguin Random House, and frankly, it's a breach of my trust in you.
P.S. A completely unironic hat tip to the art director responsible for that eye-catching cover, as well as to the marketing people for that terrific blurb. It contains more coherence and intrigue than the book by far.