I went into this one excited. I like a good murder suspense. For the most part, this book was great. Ethan was mostly written well and easy to understand. Stone was much of the same mostly easy to understand. But some odd choices made this book a bit of a miss for me.
Firstly the whole opening seemed a bit much. We have to deal with a rude neighbour which is fine but it’s the interaction with Stone and Ethan that seems off. Stone helps to get rid of the rude neighbour but his last interaction with Ethan is a rather snippy and also rude comment about how the truck can’t stay there. It’s a moving van and it won’t be staying there so why so much attitude? Then another incident with the same slightly off neighbour happens and Stone again helps with the situation but then gets mad at Ethan for shouting at him. He came onto his property and had to be almost forcibly removed and Stone was mad that Ethan was angry with the neighbour? The same neighbour he just helped calm down for a second time. How is he going to be helpful and then be mean right after? it didn’t stop there. He also comes over to Ethan’s door getting Ethan angry again by accusing him of parking his car in his driveway.
The reason this is odd is that he’s a detective and when Ethan who has a garage says it isn’t his car he argues with him about seeing him driving it instead of embracing that it’s not his car. But he’s a detective. Being trained to see things others can’t is part of his job. It’s odd he couldn’t tell the difference between the cars or would even assume a new neighbour wouldn’t park in his own driveway or garage.
Now to be fair this is all set up for an apology scene. One where he explains the neighbour isn’t as well as he used to be, to establish he has a sensor camera outside his house for security which comes up later on, and to transition, not very well but more on that later, into revealing the death threat emails Ethan has received. But it doesn’t sell well as a meet and great enemies to friends situation. Especially when you add on how, even if justified, Ethan was equally rude. When they are trapped at the checkout together and Stone is obviously trying to say something instead of staring him down and waiting for what he had to say he gives a lot of attitude and standoffish vibes. He definitely could’ve demanded he apologise or wait to see if he was and still been fuming while doing this instead of approaching it the way he did. After all, they were in the same lane why not hear him explain his bad behaviour considering Ethan has bought a house and is stuck beside him for the indefinite future.
I dunno but all of this could’ve been handled if Stone had simply come over with a peace offering of coffee after the rude encounter with the neighbour and explained how he knew he was home cause his car didn’t alert the camera, and that the neighbour had changed a bit after an event in his life and was acting out. This would’ve revealed all the things needed for the plot and got Ethan comfortable enough to show him the emails without all the aggression that made me not like both of them and then be expected to like them both so quickly. Also, the car was toed so who did it belong to? Again it just made it seem even more obvious it was set up for this apology scene that could’ve happened without all the extras.
The next thing was scene transitions and even conversation transitions didn’t, well, transition. For example, we know Ethan has death threat emails. When it doesn’t come up it goes something like this. Ethan says he’s sorry for being a jerk at the store but… he trails off. Stone says what is it. He says it’s not that serious. Stone isn’t convinced. Then the story switches out of Ethan’s POV to Stone’s in the next chapter. So I’m reading along waiting and he asks again, after this apology breakfast he brought to Ethan’s home has been eaten, what Ethan didn’t say earlier. Ethan says, again ‘I really think it’s nothing but the two emails’… and I’m like hmmm did he already tell him about the emails? He didn’t though so why is he talking like he did. Why didn’t he instead say ‘I got two threatening emails that I sent of to a friend who works in (wherever she works). Then casually explain it away like it’s par for the course with his job and downplay the importance of them. But he talks like he’s already told Stone about the emails but refused to tell him what was in them then he lets Stone read them. However, in actuality, he hasn’t told him anything yet. It was just odd and I reread the beginning of this chapter a few times to see if I missed when the first mention of emails happened.
This happens a few times in the book. Another example, this is scene related, is when Stone wakes up with Ethan on his mind, handles that excitement and showers but the very next paragraph starts off talking about a meeting short and we find out after this that presently Stone is on his way to the author conference Ethan as at, the place where the murders are happening. It’s odd cause you don’t just shower and immediately have a meeting then arrive at a destination. We didn’t get dressed, brush our teeth, think about the meeting we don’t want to go to, grab a coffee or even arrive at the meeting. Stone is actually arriving at the hotel which means these things have already transpired. Instead of starting in the car and having Stone think about how his day has gone so far from the released pent-up frustration thinking about Ethan before heading off to a brief meeting and arriving at the destination, the author describes them as present actions so I was def thinking, when did Stone go to the meeting, how did they get there, when did it end putting them on the road to the conference, just where are we exactly?
These are just two examples but scene changes without solid transitions happened often enough for me to notice. And when it occurred within a chapter, unlike the above which was the beginning of a chapter, you just happened to be in one place then another without a page break or obvious signifier things had changed. It broke up the flow sometimes but in between these occurrences, the flow was fine. No issues at all really. I was here for all of it. Like I said a good suspense mystery is one of my favourite things to read.
I did do a video review of this and for the life of me I couldn’t find the part about the second murder when I did it. After the second murder, Ethan is still a suspect. I had major issues with this.
First the victim left the bar. Everyone watched her leave.
Second as far as transitions, where is this bar? Is it in the hotel? The location would help with the timeline and more importantly explain if she is in a hotel bathroom outside the bar seeing as she is written as leaving the bar or the one in the bar, which would be odd since she left the bar.
Third, after the incident between her and Ethan someone apologises for her, Ethan says it’s okay, then some woman they don’t know walks over to the table and asks if they are all okay (strange cause if she’s watching undercover as an officer why reveal herself.) Then Ethan immediately gets up and goes to the bathroom finishing quickly and hears a noise above him. Slowly he backs away to the door and a body falls through the tiles as Jackson another character walks into the bathroom which, depending on where this bar is, could be in the hotel or the actual bar, which she was seen walking out of so clarity is definitely needed here.
All these points to say knowing adding up how long Ethan stayed at the table when she walked out including the fact that the body was in the ceiling, the killer had to move extra fast. Even with poison, the amount of time it would take to hide a body in a ceiling, which would’ve been extremely difficult to do from inside the bathroom so the killer had to have a quicker more efficient way to do this, but it would’ve taken much longer than it took to walk to the bathroom, use it, and wash his hands. I had trouble believing the killer could even get the body up there that fast without the tiles looking like they had been disturbed. From her walking out to Ethan walking up there were only for sentences. Two from someone at the table, one from him, and one from this mystery woman before Ethan said he had to go. Adding all that up it was impossible for Ethan to have done this but he was still a suspect. Even with someone else witnessing the fall.
The ending felt a bit rushed as well and also had its oddities. Like when an out of town detective tells Stone that Ethan was an obnoxious know-it-all starting trouble around the time a murder happened in his town, Stone rightly sends a photo. I knew this was a group photo and was not surprised by this or how it played out. My issue was what detective believing someone has the wrong guy wouldn’t send a clear picture and ask if this is the man you are talking about, and if he didn’t have one not specifically ask can you point out the man you saw in this photo. He just sends a random group shot and then we have to hear the officer say ‘yes that’s him’ and he doesn’t even directly say which ‘him’ it is. It was just a strange sort of plot device that didn’t fit what I would expect a detective to do. And how he found out about this fourth murder was another one of those awkward transitions. The conversation around it didn’t scream ‘triggers brain to think about another murder’ from the character that got triggered.
And the most jarring thing about it all was that Ethan didn’t fit the killer’s victimology and as with the falling from the ceiling bit, I’m still unsure how the killer accomplished these things. Well the first kill and the last minute really the first kill are fairly obvious but the other two would’ve taken some serious craft to pull off. Also, the thing with Ethan, is that a killer who has gone undetected has suddenly decided to attack someone, outside their room, in a hotel with cameras and risk being caught. Even if they couldn’t be identified now there would be video evidence of them. Why did they switch up their MO from poisoning to this and why was the first local kill, and the real first kill, so much more physical than the two poisonings?
Maybe I’ve read or watched more than my fair share of crime both real and fictional but there were a few inconsistencies I was hoping would be cleared up with a final police interview. He already confessed to Ethan so a little bit more to make it make sense would’ve cleared things up.
Over all, there wasn’t a single point reading this that I thought I’m quitting. I did enjoy the story despite some of the issues. It was a decent murder mystery and crafted well enough to keep me entertained. In that aspect, it was a hit. But the awkward transitions in both conversations, and scenes, and some inconsistencies with the murders coupled with the weird beginning and the hard to believe actions of Stone at the end did bring me out of the story enough to damper that enjoyment. It’s worth the read and others will probably thoroughly enjoy it. And it’s the first in the series so there’s more where this came from so who knows. It might shape up into something pretty spectacular but it was an enjoyable ‘okay’ for me.
Lastly, a totally Biased decision, but the cover model is pure hotness, and this may or may not have played a teeny part in me wanting to read this story