This Review Contains Spoilers
This was a hard read for me. When It started off it seemed like something I could genuinely enjoy but the deeper I got into it the more off it seemed. Too many things about it didn’t make sense. I couldn’t quite get on board with how the villain’s mom graduating with a degree and not using it. Running away from home is perfectly acceptable. People do it all the time but they don’t bother with a whole identity change unless they are in danger of being hunted, killed or something along those lines. Their family hating them didn’t seem like a strong enough motive. Even disowned children have zero issues saying who their parents are and why they left to preserve their sanity. It also didn’t help that author states she could’ve had a better life/job with the degree so if it was possible where was the motivation not to take that route? Something about the life she chose didn’t sit well with me. It’s probably me bringing my own single parent raised home baggage into it but I just feel if it was possible she would’ve done all within her power to make it happen.
It didn’t end there. When a murder happens in her condo community it was hard to envision her not seeing all the noise and commotion when she entered her apartment. If the victim lived close enough to see someone leaving her house surely Elise lived close enough to notice the police and ambulance upon entering her own apartment.
The other thing was throwing in the awkward neighbour as a diversion didn’t work. For a few seconds I was hoping I was wrong about where the plot might be going but it turns out he didn’t serve any real purpose and the plot continued down the designated path. His entrance didn’t do anything except make me consider a different book might evolve but that, like I said, did not happen.
The pacing in the middle seemed off. I walked away from the book for a bit at the first murder because of what I already said. My spatial awareness of the scene was enough to force me to take a break. Also, nothing happened which was what made the neighbour stuff so odd because the killer was also the stalker and it’s hard to think that when we have his point of view in the story as well as hers that nothing about the investigation is spoken on when he’s the murderer.
When the fated trip to the log cabin, something the blurb clearly states will happen, finally happened I thought okay we are going somewhere. But instead there was a little mishap with the dog and Elise ignoring him to cook for her fiancé Deke. It just seemed off because she had plenty of time to cook. Why not indulge a clearly agitated pup during daylight when it’s safe.
Jumping back, my main reason for walking away before the murder was the mystery behind why the villain wants revenge. It was clear it was not mentioned to force readers to read until the end to find out with some big reveal. I figured out fairly quickly where the book was going but was hoping I was wrong. Withholding this as a device to keep readers reading, for me at least, it became my only reason for reading to find out the why and thus made all the other issues stand out more as I was hoping with each page the stalker would share their motivation but this didn’t happen until the end. Not only that but it played out the way I thought which was why I almost walked away once it became obvious I would not be told why the villain was so hell-bent on revenge.
Before that though was another big issue again involving the dog. After a big fight with Deke Elise storms out after her dog into the woods and finds a Deke double locked in a trailer. Her first thought is how did he lock himself in. She literally just left the other Deke in the cabin. It isn’t physically possible for him to have run out after her, pass her and then lock himself inside a room just to mess with her. He’d have to run extra fast and evidence like sweat and heavy breathing would be present. And he definitely did not have time to change his clothes too. Also, we are given the impression fake Deke is going to the hot tub and there is evidence this happened when Elise returns to the cabin.
Not only was this obvious bit of information forgotten, she then on top of this grills him about if he’s the real Deke and, sigh… As a reader I’m expected to jump on the whole he’s a cheater because of some video her best friend sent her of him, and go through ‘50 questions why’ and her thinking he’s some cheating man trying to mess with her when it’s obvious he must have a twin he doesn’t know about purely based on one fact—he could not have left the cabin, entered the woods beating her and her dog there and also changed his clothes in time to play tricks on her. It’s almost like she forgot she left him behind at the cabin just so there can be some big dramatic almost fall out scene that felt forced. Someone with reporter instincts would not be unintelligible enough to make this many assumptions and mistakes about a situation. Elise was definitely smart enough to figure all this out the moment she saw Deke locked up without all the forced denial.
Also adding the whole ‘cheating’ element to this story took away from what could’ve on its own been a decent suspense. Then after all this murder and twin switching, I’m expected to believe that a mother on her death bed would not tell her son anything except you have a twin and this who he is. Not why she gave up his brother. Nothing about why she didn’t use her degree for a better job. Nothing of who his grandparents are. Just this is your brother and that’s it. And then, he spent two years researching him in his present state and nothing of his past and his beginnings? If he was going to replace him, he would need to know everything from medical history to past girlfriends and all sorts of things he might encounter while faking a life to fake it accurately, yet all he seems to know is about Deke’s present existence. Not hardly enough to pretend to be a twin he didn’t know anything about two years earlier. I’m still not convinced he even knew brussels sprouts were Deke’s favourite vegetable.
And there is no comeuppance. Just a whole big ‘I’m sorry I didn’t know’ which he would’ve with proper research, and then Deke even feeling bad for not seeking out his brother. Like he could’ve prevented this. This was another thing that made the mom situation feel weird because his parents told him he was adopted and had a twin which is what the other guy’s mom should’ve done. It’s just so odd she didn’t tell him especially when Deke quite literally could’ve died had she not given him up. He still almost died. That, and his twin is a murderer two times over, why are we feeling sorry for him and why is the murderer turning into mush pie like he’s magically lost all his badguyness.
And, when Elise went into the woods I knew the story was over. After that reveal there wasn’t anywhere to go but the end. Yet there’s 36 or so percent left of book. That’s a lot of preview or bloat material. I only mention it because I was looking for short books. Books the length this one actually is and I passed over it a few times because even though short, I was looking for under 100 pages. Had this book been uploaded at its actual page number without all the extras that I did not read I would’ve purchased it a lot faster. I honestly went back to do this review as I always have the book handy as I type reviews, and forgot it wasn’t a full page-count book and thought, reading the excerpts at the back, I had the wrong book and had somehow misplaced or deleted the right book ’cause I did not recognise the characters. I legit had a mild panic attack before realising I was reading that last 30 plus percent of extras.
This book was suspenseful. It was also well written. There’s no denying that, in all fairness, it might very well be excellently written. It had all the makings of a good suspense. But leaning on the ‘cheating’ in romance trope at the end hurt it for me. And that it was connected to the big plot issue of being in two places at the same time in the end just to drag out the discovery scene felt extra forced to an already hard to fall in line with ‘questioning’ of Deke episode; plus the villain not doing nearly enough research to take over someone’s identity; the really mushy all is right with the world and forgiveness washout ending which meant other than being arrested the bad guy getting his due fell flat, all together combined to make what could’ve been an interesting take on the ‘switch’ genre of suspense not really hold up. Add that to the mom’s actions and decisions on what she told and didn’t tell to our villain and there’s a lot of plot decisions that made this story hard to get into. It was clear that things happened because the author wanted/needed them to happen to make the plot work even if on their own these things didn’t make sense and that made it extremely hard for me to enjoy this story.