Tuesday, July 4, 2023

What Never Happened

What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall
8/1/23; 428 pages
Thomas & Mercer

What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall is a highly recommended investigative mystery.

Twenty years before, Colette “Coco” Weber was the only survivor of a deadly home invasion the took the life of her parents and brother. She was more than willing to leave the Catalina Island home she inherited with her Aunt Gwen in residence and make a career on the mainland. She does well and finds success as an award winning obituary writer. Later, when her relationship breaks up and she learns Aunt Gwen may need some assistance, she accepts a job with the local paper and moves back to Catalina. Once she returns, strange and ominous things begin to happen.

Both Coco and Gwen are fully realized characters while the rest of the characters simply fulfill various roles in the plot. Coco has a prickly personality which may be off-putting, however she also has perfectly legitimate reasons for her attitude. The island and the inhabitants in general also become characters in the novel.

What Never Happened is plot driven by two different mysteries that beg to be solved. The first is who murdered Coco's family as new evidence exonerated the man convicted years earlier. The second mystery that officials seem unconcerned with involves the large number of elderly women who have recently been found dead on the island.

The pace of the novel is uneven. There were sections were I was fully engaged with the plot and immersed in the action. There were other times my interest in the narrative waned. Even with the murder mysteries I had to force myself to keep reading. At over 400 pages perhaps a bit more editing could have tightened up the narrative to keep the action moving along smoothly. Still, this is a very entertaining mystery.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley.

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