Wednesday, March 24, 2021

What You Never Knew

What You Never Knew by Jessica Hamilton
4/13/21; 304 pages
Crooked Lane Books

What You Never Knew by Jessica Hamilton is a recommended atmospheric mystery.

June Bennet's mother passed away, followed tragically by her older sister, May. Settling May's will, June now learns, at age forty, that she owns Avril island. She had been told the island with her family's hundred-year-old cottage on it was sold years ago, after the summer she was twelve and her father disappeared. June travels to the island in search of answers. She had spent her summers on the island with her beautiful and mercurial mother and beloved, protective older sister May. Now she is alone to face what happened in the island and look for answers. Soon it becomes clear that what June was told was not the truth about what happened years ago and that her family, i.e. her mother, had rumors swirling around her during that time.

As June grieves for May, May is there, haunting her in a sense, as a ghost. June is discovering the mystery behind her family's time on the island while spectral May is present in alternate short chapters, trying to help/contact June. It is an interesting idea but doesn't quite work well here. June's actual discovery of the secrets behind her family's departure from the island and her mother's duplicitous behavior are much more compelling. Hamilton provides plenty of mysterious happenings that can't be explained and clues that someone may be more than just curious about a Bennet's return to the island.

As the plot unfolds and June uncovers more information, we also learn more about June, which makes her a realistic character, but not entirely a sympathetic character. She has several flaws. The immediate attraction and connection to her childhood friend, Ezra, seemed a bit off and unrealistic to me. Certainly, most adults would take things more cautiously. I'll admit that I felt no connection for either May or June.

All in all this is a decent debut novel and I stayed with What You Never Knew for the mystery. Alas, while it was a satisfying ending, I saw it coming early on. This is a quick read; you can fly through the pages and reach the denouement swiftly. (A little note about an error: There was a description that said June put sweet-n-low in her coffee for the sugar rush, which had me laugh aloud. Certainly it will be corrected to a caffeine rush in the final edition, but this was indicative of some of the errors in the writing of the ARC.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for my honest opinion.

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