Before We Were Innocent follows the lives of two best friends from high school, Joni and Bess, as they vacation in Greece with their friend, Evangeline, and the aftermath of Evangeline’s suspicious death on that trip ten years later.
After the media storm surrounding Evangeline’s untimely death dies down, Joni and Bess settle into completely different lives. Joni capitalizes on her infamy and becomes a motivational speaker preaching about how to live life to the fullest, while Bess makes her life as small as possible living and working in a remote cabin in a Californian desert. Bess is enjoying her quiet set-up until Joni blows back into her life worried about her missing fiancé and the police accusing her of, once again, being implicated in a murder…
I like that this book features a dual timeline showing the events unfolding in Greece after Bess and Joni’s high school graduation, and the two women reconvening ten years later to then figure out what happened to Joni’s fiancé, Willa. However, I feel like this book dances between the genre lines of thriller and contemporary fiction in a way that didn’t quite work. It reads more like fiction, but the plot is largely about the women trying to figure out what happened to Evangeline and Willa which makes it feel more like a thriller. As the police uncover more information in both timelines, Bess wonders how much she can truly trust Joni. Again, the unfolding felt very much like a thriller, but the time spent on Bess’ feelings and learning how to live her life again felt more akin to contemporary fiction.
The book also leaves a lot open at the end. So if you’re looking for a buttoned-up ending, you won’t find that in this book. But if you like ambiguous endings and an interesting story that sways between genres, this book might be for you.
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