Don’t Let Him In
Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
The description sounded intriguing, and the main character’s dad, whose death pre-empts this story, was the editor of a small town newspaper. As a former local newspaper journalist myself I have a soft spot for stories about fellow journos.
Review copy or purchase
Review copy via publisher Penguin and NetGalley UK in exchange for an honest review.
What it’s about
When her father Sean Cole dies suddenly, Rebecca heads back home for the first time in years to the small English town of Eriston. She learns that Eriston has a dark side, more deaths and missing people than is normal for a place of its side. The local beat cop suspects that there’s more to the local legend of The Chameleon than simple myth, and he says Rebecca’s dad agreed with him. Had Sean found out something more before he died? Can Rebeccca solve the mystery and finish her dad’s work?
There are two big pitfalls of mystery books. The first is revealing the culprit as someone who did not appear in the book before, who the reader had no possible chance of suspecting.
The second is the trap this book falls into: having no faith that your reader has picked up on the clues you seeded into the story and so spoonfeeding the explanation to exhaustive levels of details, then still trying to present the heavily rehearsed reveal as a shock. It’s like the worst examples of mansplaining. I’ve never read a book before where the author over explains to this extent. He seems to be so afraid of leaving any mystery in his mystery and think his readers are unable to figure stuff out.
It’s a shame because up until the last 10% or so this book is a really good read. A good mix of clues and suspense, and a building sense of threat in the small town with the unusually high murder rate. All I can imagin is that the editor took a holiday for the last section, which is overwritten and as a result is underwhelming.
Rebecca literally spends the chapter before the big reveal putting the final clues together for the main suspect, but realising she has no real proof to back up her suspicion. In the next chapter the individual reveals themselves – exactly who she suspected it was – and yet the book presents it as a shock. Rebecca even says, I don’t know why this is a shock and painfully labours over every part of why the culprit created the circumstances in which they revealed themselves.
The fun of a good whodunnit is figuring out the cullprit. Your ending should either come as a total surprise to the reader and they enjoy the shock, or they’ve figured it out and get to feel smug that they pick up on the early clues. In either case you should never distract from the action of the plot climax by spelling out every single clue as is done here. If you really think there’s a chance your reader has missed something save it for the epilogue where you can have your characters address the ‘one thing I didn’t understand’ questions which might linger.
The result is a horribly clunky ending which absolutely ruined an otherwise enjoyable book. If I’d stopped at the start of chapter 43 this would have been a solid 4 star review (possibly even 5 stars if the plot climax had delivered tension instead of annoyance). But, the final 10% is 1 star territory all the way, so I’ve balanced that out as 2 stars. Please, please, have more confidence in your readers and your writing.