Top critical review
This Book is a Lie
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2020
I'd like to give this book three stars, because I like some elements of it. I might even finish it, based on those. The town of Pelican Harbor, AL, for instance, feels real and like a place I'd enjoy visiting. As a fan of all things New Orleans, I especially enjoy the border-of-NOLA vibes from the beignets, Saints fans, and so on.
Jane also has an interesting background. Her prologue sucked me in, as did her interest in The Princess Diaries (I too was easily hooked by books at her age and still am). The fact that she's a female police chief in a small town is another selling point because of the built-in conflict (tight-knit community, the sexism lurking beneath the gentility of Southern tradition, and so on).
But Colleen Coble has lied to me again. Let me be blunt: she is the queen of the intriguing premise, but she's also the queen of ruining one. She seems to think her readers are goldfish. She'll show a mannerism or a bit of dialogue that indicates a character is feeling something, and then, within one line, tell the reader the same thing. For instance, Jane has a prickly interaction with Reid, and within a line--*one* line--we get, "Jane obviously didn't want him around." Yes, I saw that!
Characters' traits are summed up in info-dumping paragraphs. Some of said traits are downright dumb, such as "Lisa was always smiling." Some are important, such as that Jane's dad is a prepper, but again, everything is told, not shown. Colleen Coble has an extremely bad habit of this.
As noted in some of my other reviews of her books, Colleen also has a bad habit of overloading characters and/or plots with issues. For example, in this one, we have the murders and Jane's complicated (or what should have been complicated) relationship with Reid. We also have Jane's dad getting arrested by the FBI, which fits in as a nice subplot. Or, if Colleen wanted to focus more on Reid, she could've gone with the subplot of him, Lauren, and Will's adoption. What we actually get is all three of these, plus the dispatcher having ALS and Jane promising to help--which entails practically promising said dispatcher's fourteen-year-old daughter she will find a cure (???) On top of that, we also have Jane's nightmares and post-cult fallout--which we know about only because we're told over and over.
There's also a gaping hole in terms of suspense, in that I could see, less than 30% through the book, who Jane's son was and how that would impact everybody. I guess I shouldn't say that since I haven't finished yet, but logically, there is no other explanation given the setup. It's a classic case of setup revealing payoff, and it's way too easy.
You might ask why I keep reading Colleen Coble's books and it's a fair question. I'm not out to trash her. In fact, I keep reading them because her premises and beginnings of character are always so good. She knows how to hook a reader--but within a little while, I'm wriggling and spitting the hook out. I don't need that, and I'm unsure why her work gets the accolades it does. Maybe there's something there I just don't see, or our tastes don't match (though I doubt it's the latter because clearly they do on some level). Oh, well. *Sigh, sigh.* I keep hoping for a big change, and I know Colleen is capable of more. I wish she would utilize the talent she has.