Book Review: Not That I Could Tell

A woman and her twin toddlers go missing the morning after she spent an evening drinking with a small group of neighborhood women. Kristin had been separated from her doctor husband, Paul, pending a divorce. Things about their marriage were not what they seemed, but nothing struck me as overly sinister, even the meager clues laid out by the author to arouse suspicion about Paul. The story moseys along, alternating between Izzy’s narration and Clara’s. Izzy is the new girl in town, unlucky in love, pining away for someone who will never be hers. Clara is Kristin’s next-door-neighbor and friend, a mother with two small children and a marriage people are envious of, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s loving and real. Both women were at the backyard get-together where Kristin was last seen. Both women are unreliable narrators.

If the story sounds interesting, I’m giving it a better sales pitch than it deserves. I was bored, bored, bored. The central mystery isn’t much of a mystery at all, and what happened to Kristin seems annoyingly obvious throughout the novel. Annoying because the question of what happened is supposed to drive the action of the story, but it is one meandering drive.

I suppose this was meant to be more of a character-driven story than a psychological thriller, but I was not one bit invested in either Izzy nor Clara. I also puzzled at how Paul was considered such a threat from day one. I understand that the husband (especially a soon-to-be ex) is going to be the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, from a law enforcement standpoint, anyway. But the evidence against Paul was just so spare. Nothing made my hair stand on end. Everything mentioned against him seemed pretty benign, especially because, in the world of fiction, an author has all the freedom in the world to lay on the drama. You have to spark some kind of interest in the reader and suspense in the story, after all. If you want people to keep reading, that is.

Rating: 2/5

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser