I'll Never Tell by Philippa East
To the outside world, the Goodlights are perfect.
Julia is a lawyer, Paul a stay-at-home dad who has dedicated his life to helping their daughter Chrissie achieve her dreams as a talented violinist.
But on the night of a prestigious music competition, which has the power to change everything for Chrissie and her family, Chrissie goes missing.
She puts on the performance of a lifetime, then completely disappears. Suddenly every single crack, every single secret that the family is hiding risks being exposed.
Because the Goodlights aren’t perfect. Not even close.
What was it all about
I’ll Never Tell by Philippa East was probably one of the books in my lifetime that I took time to read. Nearly 20 days to finish the book. That was practically unheard of for a book that claimed to be a thriller.
A standalone book borrowed from a friend since I had liked the earlier works of this author, I was left pondering how she could have gotten this suspenseful thriller so wrong.
A musically talented daughter was pushed to play the violin by the father so that he could bask in her reflected glory. A mother who was virtually absent from her daughter’s life, apparently due to work and sometimes snorting cocaine. A set of grandparents of whom all of them were wary.
One fine evening, post a musical presentation, the daughter disappeared. The cops were called. The parents, though devastated, had many other things to hide. That formed the crux of the storyline.
Suspenseful thriller was what the story was tagged under, and the author kept the atmosphere dampened. Not completely enthralling, not completely mysterious, the book traversed a path somewhere in the middle.
Though the plot arc was a missing child, fear not, it really wasn’t. A regular reader of thrillers would decipher the clues as they were laid down.
Trigger Warnings: A couple of scenes of child molestation/abuse, nothing completely graphic but left the parents aghast.
The compelling hook that kept me sunk into the book was the first half where the writing kept me burning with an intense need to know what made the mother tick and the reason for her apprehension around her parents.
Having read many books in this genre, as you all know the thriller gal that I am, I felt the book lost its way right down in the middle.
In trying to be different to make the atmosphere dark and mysterious, the author forgot to keep a tight rein on the plotline. Unfortunately for her, all her characters ran amok in the story, leaving me with nothing to sink my teeth into and plenty of unanswered questions.
Needless to say, my expectations were completely dashed, and I was left heartbroken but happy enough to realize I had not spent my hard earned money to buy the book.
Loved the characters? Nah, I don’t think so. Hated them? Nope. Didn’t want to spend so much energy hating them.
In the first half of the book, the author successfully managed to make them interesting, allocating different shades to them, something most thrillers now had. I could honestly tell you that after the initial half, I was completely detached from them.
Barring the daughter, who rightfully disappeared from this dreadful set of caricatures, I wished all of them would roll over and die. Believe me, rolling over was kinda important. Not to the story, but to me, since it would provide me with entertainment that the book didn’t offer.
Ratherly awkward, throughout the book, I wondered why I felt the perverse need to torture myself. Perhaps I thought the characters would redeem themselves and come back to what they were supposed to be.
Written in different timelines, the book showed me the complete lives of the parents. The plot started with the daughter’s performance followed by her disappearance. Once the cops were called, the book focussed on the past, showing me the individual lives of the parents in the days leading up to the disappearance.
Initially, the subplots were lined up well, with the right amount of intrigue in the words. The missing teen theme was one of the subplots that resonated with me. Then the story unraveled with different clues that both parents reacted differently to.
There were many subplots that felt intriguing initially, but then as the book grew to an end, you would be left wondering what childish wordplay that was. Believe me, in the end, I got to know that some things were deliberately added to provide some sort of mystery when there was really nothing to it.
I think when an author tries to pull a fast one, readers tend to stay away from that author in the future. I would say this book was one risk that backfired. A theme that could have been carried itself out responsibly and with sensitivity was abandoned to travel on a sinking boat.
The ending was a HEA but nothing got explained well. I was left with so many unanswered questions that I felt I should have bailed out on this book long, long ago. Maybe from the first page.
Too many weird subplots and forcibly added intrigue bored the heck out of me and dragged the story.
I liked it when authors added intrigue and darkness to the plotline. But this felt forced in this book, especially in the second half, which tried too hard to be mysterious. So much so that it failed to lure me in.
The pace dragged in the second half, so much so that I had to push the book to completion today by flipping through the pages that added nothing to the story but were just fillers.
I didn’t know why I thought the book would redeem itself in the last few pages. It became more boring than ever.
The style of writing - The Prose
I would say the author was talented, but because of the lackadaisical subplots, the writing did not match what a thriller genre should lead up to.
A book that started with a compelling voice continued in a squeaky-fingernails-on-the-blackboard tone to finally end in barely a whisper. It was sad to see it weakening down the pages.
How it made me feel - The Good
The only thought that ran through my mind when I finished the book was – What the f**k did I read? and Why did I waste so many hours trying to finish the book? DNF DNF DNF should have been my tagline.
Do I recommend this book?
Throughout this review, if you are wondering why I am being so critical, it is because nowadays I have started buying books, not depending on Netgalley and Edelweiss, so when I am spending my hard-earned money to read a thriller, it ought to thrill me. Shouldn’t it?
If I have lost money on a book, why should you do so? Luckily, this book was borrowed from my friend, and both of us didn’t enjoy it.
Maybe I’ll Never Tell should have never been told from the very beginning.
Read it at your own risk and with zero expectations.
I borrowed the paperback copy of the book from my friend, and this is my journey down its pages, straight from the heart. STRICTLY HONEST and UNBIASED.
If you’ve loved the sarcasm in my review and would love to hear more of it in the next two-star read, buy me a cuppa.
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