Monday, January 1, 2024

Only If You're Lucky

Only If You're Lucky by Stacy Willingham
1/16/24; 384 pages
Minotaur Books

Only If You're Lucky by Stacy Willingham is a highly recommended novel of psychological suspense.

Margot has always been the quiet one and has spent her first year at Rutledge College in South Carolina grieving the loss of her best friend, Eliza. She is surprised when out-going Lucy Sharpe invites her to join her and two friends renting a house-off campus. Margot surprises herself by saying yes and joins Lucy, the dynamic ringleader, Sloane, the sarcastic smart one, and Nicole, the nice one. The house is owned by the Kappa Nu fraternity, and in fact there is easy access to the frat through a backyard shed. The arrangement seems to be going well, but by the middle of their sophomore year one of the frat boys is dead and Lucy is missing.

The writing is very good in this well-paced campus thriller. Suspense builds gradually as the narrative alternates between two timelines, before the murder and the investigation afterwards. It is also clear that more is going on than meets the eye and part of the intrigue and tension is finding out exactly what secrets are being kept. It is definitely a college setting with lots of drinking, partying, and an often present truth or dare game (which I was skeptical that college students would actually play).

Details about Eliza and Margot's past are slowly revealed as the present day intrigue ramps up. A darker side to Lucy's character also emerges. It becomes more difficult to know who to trust as more information is revealed. Certainly the perplexing nature of angsty female friendships and the search for belonging in college is explored. You need to suspend some disbelief at the ending, but the drama leading up to it is entertaining.

Disclosure: My complimentary review copy was courtesy of Minotaur Books via NetGalley.

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