“Sometimes an answer is an answer, even if it’s not the right one.”
First, let me start by saying this is a book with a lot going on, but not in a bad way. Ivy is getting older and as much as she loves her home, she’s afraid she’ll never meet someone and be able to start her own family. Ariana is trying to put the past to rest and figure out her own ways to move on, including finding her birth father. Cam is successful and has a great daughter, but his wife is the epitome of a nightmare. There are other peripheral characters, too, of course, but as the book is about these three (mostly) it’s best to keep in mind just how many moving parts there are for them alone. That said, the story isn’t hard to follow – every character has a distinctive voice (even the ones on the periphery) and although it changes point of view often, it’s not to its detriment. This book is a strange mix of murder mystery and like, a beach read but it works. It’s a fun read, but it was hard for me to pick up at times because some characters are absolutely infuriating – mostly Melanie, Cam’s wife.
As the synopsis states, Ivy, Ariana, and Cam are the best friends at the heart of this story, but honestly Ivy felt like she became a bit of an afterthought. Cam and Ariana end up spending a lot of one-on-one time together, which shuts Ivy out and this definitely is part of what causes the tumultuous climax. In fact, a lot of misunderstanding could’ve been avoided with a simple conversation like adults, wherein Ariana and Cam owned up to their growing attraction and clued Ivy in on everything that happened the night in question. But they don’t do it right away and she ends up feeling shut out and it was irritating to me that so much of that conflict could’ve been avoided if they acted like the 30-somethings they were rather than teenagers again. And given that Ivy is the one who owns and runs the library on the island, it makes the name of the book even stranger to me because we honestly rarely hear from her point of view after a bit – it’s mostly swapping between Cam and Ariana with the missing girl’s older sister thrown in as well.
Speaking of the older sister – I wanted to have sympathy for Jewel, I really did. She was raised by religious parents, with a preacher father and a mother that did everything she was “supposed” to according to their religion. Jewel had a bit of a wild streak in her as a teenager – drinking, having sex, it’s hinted that maybe drugs at some point too – but her parents are unaware. And since she was out the night her younger sister went missing doing two of those activities, she’s unwilling to tell the police or her parents the truth. And instead launches headlong into accusing Cam of having something to do with her sister’s disappearance. It’s disgusting because there’s no proof, but she does her best to try to make sure he takes the fall for what happened to her sister. That includes manipulating the investigation, denouncing him to the media, and hounding the cops. And the worst part is that anyone who has paid even a little attention to true crime before has seen this play out in the real world – it’s so disheartening and it was all too familiar to read about it. In the end, I couldn’t have any sympathy for her, because she had absolutely no regard for how she was destroying someone else’s life with no proof that he had anything to do with what happened to her sister.
There were a couple of instances in the book where I felt confused because we had a situation clearly explained, only to have it explained again a few pages later. I can think of at least two instances where I flipped back because I was sure I had misunderstood, but I don’t think so – and in the second instance both times, the characters acted as if it was all new to them. It wasn’t an overt problem, but something that has me curious about the book and wondering if anyone else noticed it or if it’s just me. Aside from that, the only thing I didn’t like was the character of Melanie. She was an utter nightmare and for anyone who reads this and thinks she’s a caricature of the “crazy woman” stereotype or something like that, let me just say I have known women that are just that manipulative, angry, and vindictive. She actually tries to get the police to focus on her own husband and then expects to be able to give their marriage a try again later. She’s the worst and I hated every moment with her in the book except for the very end when Cam lays it all out for her.
Again, I did feel like Ivy got a bit of the short end of the stick in the end. We heard so little from her overall, but she was brought in again at the very end to basically be the hero with something she finds. And that triggers Cam to remember something about that night 20 years ago and proposes a theory to the detective working the case who is then able to actually trap the real villain. It was aggravating to me that this detective is supposed to be very smart and it seemed like he was definitely on the way to figuring things out, but then Cam basically came up with a theoretical explanation for everything and that turned out to be it? I would’ve liked it better if Cam could’ve tipped the detective off to something and then he put the rest together himself. Maybe that was supposed to be the impression we got, but if so I obviously missed it.
All in all, this was a really great story – a nice mix of seeing a cold case solved after 20 years, along with friends reuniting and seeing how life has changed them but at their core they’re still the same people who have cared for each other all along. It’s also nice to see parents owning up to their mistakes and trying to make things right, even if it’s a long time later. There were some instances of people frustrating me by not talking and then there were other instances where it was really understandable, but the important thing is that these people who meant so much to each other never stopped trying. I really enjoyed this book and I think anyone who’s looking for a bit more than just a murder mystery – like watching people be human – will love it too.
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