When her seemingly happy husband commits suicide, Nora Hamilton suspects something fishy. Her quest to belatedly find the truth leads to mysteries both within her marriage, and within the small town where her husband grew up but she is an outsider.
Having read many five-star reviews and just as many one-star reviews of this novel, I agree with both, so I'm offering three stars. There are some exciting elements and the book is appropriately chilling. The main plot is very intriguing and I kept turning pages. On the other hand, there are some amateurish elements consistent with a first effort by a debut novelist. Below (in the spoiler section) are a few specific examples.
I have met Jenny Milchman and found her to be a lovely person. The fact that this novel took so long to publish is a testament to her passion for her work and her determination to succeed as a novelist. I think this book will provide a solid stepping-stone for Jenny's career. Because I agreed so wholeheartedly with many of the comments that have been made (both positive and negative), it is my hope that Jenny will take those critiques to heart and use what she learns from them in her next work. I think she has the potential to become a fabulous mystery/thriller author and I look forward to her next effort.
Here are a few of things about the book that I would have done differently:
1) The "I'll tell you tomorrow!" As soon as I read that part, I knew Jean was going to die. That scene came across as a poorly veiled attempt to raise the stakes, but unrealistic. Given Nora's drive to understand her husband's suicide, I don't think she would have been satisfied to leave key info at that point.
2) Nora's failure to answer the mysterious phone call that keeps coming in. Same reason. I didn't find it credible that she would ignore the phone call for any reason. It would have been better if she tried to call but couldn't get through, or the line got cut off, etc.
3) The romantic tension with Ned struck me as...frankly, tasteless. Her husband just died! It damaged Nora's likeability and her credibility as a grieving widow.
4) Nora's tendency to become distracted with ideas and thoughts about home restoration. I understand that the goal was to give her some back-story and depth, but the execution of these pieces made her come across a bit ADD. Again, it damaged her credibility as a grieving widow and a woman driven to understand her husband's suicide.
5) I would have liked to know Brendan a bit better. Instead of integrating the third-person segments, many of which struck me as a bit unnecessary, I would have liked to see (for example) some flashbacks to Brendan and Nora's marriage when he was still alive. I would have liked to have seen it with my own eyes. We keep hearing directly from Nora how happy she and Brendan were, but with all evidence to the contrary it's difficult to believe her. I think her proclamation of happiness would be more credible if we could have witnessed their relationship first-hand. Perhaps the incorporation of some flashbacks could have killed two birds with one stone by showing their happiness on a "normal" day when she's restoring houses (see point #4.) Then, the evidence to the contrary would have been that much more impactful and the reader would have shared her confusion about the events unfolding around her.
Overall, a solid first effort. I would recommend this novel to those who like a good "why-dunnit" and I would suggest that mystery/thriller fans keep an eye on this author.