I am not lost…

March 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE GOOD NEIGHBOR by A.J. Banner

When I got my Kindle for Christmas, I went on a bit of a spree trying to find books I could track down for either free or very low cost. I can’t recall how I tracked this one down–I’m guessing it showed up somewhere in my library as a free download, but the blurb looked interesting. A husband and wife, and the world around them shaken to its core. Sure. I like stories with suspense and intrigue, and it’s hard to pass up the low low price of free. So I picked it up, and about a month later got around to reading it.

I’m starting to wonder if that’s actually a good idea anymore. (Picking up free books at random, not picking up this particular one. But.)

Sarah and Johnny are a married couple who face a…uh. Dramatic? issue at the beginning of the novel. (Despite the fact that I don’t consider it much of a spoiler, I’m not going to say what happens. I’d rather anyone get to experience as much of the book blind as possible.) It shakes them pretty badly, and they move into a new place away from their old neighborhood in an attempt to start over as much as they can.

There’s a teaser at the beginning for one of the core scenes at the end, but even knowing that it’s going to come doesn’t hold much suspense with the reader. Johnny is strangely distant through the book, and while I see what the author was trying to do with the misdirection with his character, I saw it a bit too clearly. (To be fair, I did doubt myself a few times, but the rest of the story was fitting too neatly into what I was expecting to really doubt for long.)

Sarah is hyper-paranoid. This is both unsurprising and tiring. She shows surprisingly low levels of trust in her husband, and her communication skills are non-existent. (And this is coming from someone who has a lot of paranoid tendencies myself. When I think you’re being irrational…) I never really liked her, and as the book went on, I wasn’t given much of a reason to like her any more. The moment a partner begins spying on their significant other, I lose a great deal of respect for them.

When the final !Twist! of the book comes, it’s so entirely out of left field that it passes surprising and becomes confusing. Generally in thrillers, there’s at least a hint about who the true villain is. There’s an obvious one and a hidden one, and even if it’s an utter surprise, when you go back you can see the signs in the hidden one.

This doesn’t have that. I’ve gone back and looked at the book. I can see maybe? where the clues are, but they’re so hidden that it’s difficult. With the myriad tiny little plot lines thrown in that all manage to end up tied in at the end, it’s hard to be invested in any one line in specific. In its favor, I was fairly impressed that all the lines DID manage to tie back together. I’ve found more often than not that books will put in a bunch of side plot, and then forget about it by the end. I’m always disappointed, because there are often some really interesting happenings off on the side and they get lost in the shuffle. This didn’t do that, and I’m thankful for that.

My true problem with this book is that it’s marketed as a psychological thriller, and as suspense fiction. There is nothing suspenseful about this story, nor is there much psychological unless you consider massive levels of paranoia thrilling. We’re not connected enough to any of the characters to be on the edge of our seats, and the real drama behind the psychological edge behind this is so far hidden that we can’t be affected by it.

The tagline of the book talks about whether or not we can truly know the people we love. I don’t think it’s the people Sarah loves she needs to worry about–I think it’s everyone, including herself. The book earned the star rating it did because while I didn’t like the story, it was decently told enough and written well enough that I’ll edge it up for at least a look. It’s a cool idea, if nothing else. (Don’t pay full price for it though. If you can borrow it somewhere, I’d recommend that.)

Rating: *** – Worth a Look

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