Wednesday, December 8, 2010

technically good

What My Best Friend Did by Lucy Dawson
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Review: If there is a textbook for "How to Write a Suspenseful Novel," then Lucy Dawson has surely read it. Her book opens on a suspenseful scene of Alice calling an ambulance for Gretchen, who has apparently tried to commit suicide by drinking and taking pills. But the reader is clearly not getting all the information. After a couple of chapters that build the suspense of what really happened and whether the truth will out, the action jumps back to when the main characters met. Chapters describing how the relationship among the various characters developed are intercut with continuing scenes from the hospital where Alice watches tensely to see whether Gretchen will wake up and tell everyone the truth. In the flashbacks, hints of the ultimate reveal are placed at exactly the right moments to ratchet up the tension, and the reveal itself is pitch-perfect.

So if technically good pacing appeals to you, you'll like this book. But there's one other problem: I think Dawson didn't quite make it to the end of her text. Although the secret itself is surprising while also being believable, and all the characters react realistically and consistently with how they've been described, the resolution is terribly disappointing. It's as though Dawson followed all the steps laid out in the textbook, but couldn't quite muster the imagination to bring it all together.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.