Jeff Fenner’s life is on the brink of collapse. He owes the wrong people too much money, anything he might call his own he’s losing his grip on, and his estranged sister has just committed suicide. The police are on his trail and it won’t lead anywhere Jeff is ready to go. There’s no light at the end of this tunnel unless he makes it himself, and he knows it. As Jeff tries to find his way back to the surface, he crosses paths with another troubled person: Holly Barnes. Holly has been struggling with her demons and trying to find solace in a West Coast, New Age self-help group called Saving Our Lives. (The acronym to SOL is particularly ironic.) Via Holly, Jeff becomes aware that his sister’s “suicide” is one of a string over the past two years–and Holly is in line to be the next victim.
As anyone who’s grown up with me knows, I have a penchant for “broken birds” in fiction. I like the bad boy with a heart of gold. I like the shattered soul piecing themselves back together. My characters inevitably have horrifying backstories. (Like the teenager who had his betrothed murdered by the Mafia. Yay?) So the initial description of TRUST ME sucked me right in. Jeff is in far too deep with drugs and booze, and he’s finally found where the rock meets the hard place. Holly isn’t much better, with a royally abusive boyfriend and her own nightmarish history, looking for any kind of answers. She’s not sold on SOL, but has made a few meetings and isn’t ready to give up on it yet.
Enter Art Bradley. He’s tall, dark, and handsome; he has a way with words to put most to shame, and a level of charm almost surreal. He can guess every trouble in Holly’s life and insists that SOL is exactly where she needs to be. He’s helpful, he’s generous, and he’s willing to walk with her. It’s easy for Holly to agree.
Of course, the plot spins downward from there; it is a thriller at its core. Javorsky has a deft way with words himself. He paints pictures with ease, driving us through California streets without sounding like a GPS. (Which unfortunately, I’ve read books that haven’t managed that.) His two leads are three-dimensional and interesting; his secondary characters are much the same. Joe, the cop involved with the apparent suicide string; Ron, the recovering alcoholic journalist who smells a story in this from a mile away; Art, the deviously charming co-founder of SOL. Even the very sideline characters have a story to tell, and I appreciate that more than I can say. In a world filled with credits like “Waitress at Bar,” it’s easy to make characters shadows, and Javorsky doesn’t.
However, I have one major issue with the book. While Holly is an incredibly in-depth character, I find her arc exceptionally unbelievable. This is a woman described as having a very spotty past with men in her life, and is currently engaged in a very unhealthy relationship when we meet her. (Tony’s a great character, but he’s such a sleaze.) When Art shows up, he’s very forceful right from the get-go. Never pushy, never demanding, but never taking no for an answer. The reason most people stay in abusive situations (from my own experience) is that this is someone they’ve known for a while, and have seen something better. Holly mentions that when Tony’s straight, he’s “really a great guy.” This excuses him, for a while, from a multitude of wrongs. Art is no one. Art is a stranger from the SOL meeting. But from the start, she’s willing to let him lead her along on a string, give her comp tickets to events, drive her around in his flashy car. I did not trust Art for one second, and by their second or third interaction, I would have been screaming for the hills. It takes Holly 2/3rds of the book before she ever manages to put a foot down, despite voicing suspicion at several points. It wouldn’t quite ring true, which was unfortunate in the midst of an otherwise excellent story.
Overall, the story is very well-told. The switching viewpoints never got confusing, they fit together with ease, and no character seemed shoehorned in just for a plot point. Each character makes a satisfying arc by the end (some more literal than others) and I’m left feeling pleased about the futures of the characters. Perhaps not the most surprising thriller story, but certainly an enjoyable one.
TRUST ME hit shelves on July 14th, 2015.
Recommendation: ***1/2 – Recommended