When Will There Be Good News? is, though, definitely an apropos question for this book. The first chapter ends with murder most foul. Though the description of the murder is artful, impressive and promising, this sets readers up for disappointment in the rest of the book, which doesn't follow through. And everything just keeps getting worse. Accidental deaths. Cruel siblings. A train wreck. Psychotic killers running loose.
It sounds like page-turning goodness, right? And it mostly is, except that every chapter shifts perspective. Sometimes that works. In this book, some of the characters took too long to get tied in to the rest of the plot, and because of the perspective shifts, they took too long to get to know. (As the NY Times review says, it "at times derail[s] the narrative momentum.")
The main characters:
- Dr. Joanna Hunter, the woman who was the girl who survived the first chapter
- Reggie, a 16-year-old orphan who takes care of the Hunters' baby boy
- Louise, a detective obsessed with Dr. Hunter's ability to overcome tragedy and another woman's inability to do the same and who is also desperately insecure in her abilities to be anything other than a cop
- Jackson Brodie, a former cop who accidentally ends up in Scotland just in time to be part of the action
Reggie was perhaps the most organic, most genuine of the characters--and she was funny. I was disappointed to reach the end of the Reggie chapters because it meant moving on to one of the others. Joanna would have been forgettable if she weren't such a necessary part of the plot. Ironically, Jackson Brodie's part seemed contrived and superfluous.
When Will There Be Good News? begins with promise and doesn't quite follow through, though readers will find themselves determined to find out what happens despite.
* I found Louise's random eco-aware comments very hard to swallow, as well as against the grain of the rest of her character.
Thanks to Little, Brown & Co. for this review copy.