First of all I would like to say thank you to the indefatigable Dave @ The Write Reads for giving me the chance to take part in this blog tour, and Betta Ferrendelli for allowing me to read a free copy of her book.
Published: 6th July 2012
Trigger warnings: Alcoholism, child sexual abuse, drugs
Christmas is coming to Denver, Colorado, but it isn’t only snow that’s falling.
A beautiful young woman, who also happens to be a Truman County Assistant DA, tumbles from her apartment balcony to her death on Christmas Eve. The incident is ruled a suicide, but the DA’s sister, newspaper reporter Samantha Church, isn’t buying it.
Feverishly Samantha throws herself into finding out what really happened to her sister. She pursues her sister’s killers, manoeuvring through a minefield of intrigue deliberately set out to divert her from the truth.
Samantha must summon the courage to face not only a cartel of criminals, but also her own demons. Physically threatened and betrayed, she nearly defeats herself through her own insecurities and fears. She not only must summon the courage to get beyond her own shortcomings, but she must work quickly to beat her nemesis – a reporter at the major metropolitan daily newspaper, who is also in close pursuit of the developing story.
Can Samantha ultimately prevail, write the biggest story of her career, and finally begin to change her life before it is too late?
The opening of this book plays out like the beginning of an episode of Law & Order, where two unsuspecting members of the public stumble across a crime or deadly incident which has just taken place. As this gives way for the central plot, it sets up what looked to be an interesting premise. From there, a lot of themes are explored and a feeling of urgency is always close at hand, but ultimately there were multiple aspects of the story that failed to captivate me.
There were some aspects that had the potential to be very good, but I never truly connected with the story or its characters, even though the protagonist Sam is given a reasonable amount of development. The mystery element contained ideas that were complex and well thought out, only to be undermined by being way too predictable.
When her sister Robin falls from a balcony, Sam immediately suspects that she was murdered, and soon finds out that she was getting close to unmasking a prolific drug-smuggling network. In her role as a journalist for a local weekly newspaper, Sam takes it upon herself to continue Robin’s investigation at great personal risk as she is pursued by those involved.
As such, my main issue with the book is that it lacks a clear focus. I could not work out if the primary objective of the plot was to unravel the mystery of who was responsible for Robin’s death, or to illustrate Sam’s attempts to uncover and write a newspaper article ahead of the competition. For me, these two strands got in the way of each other, and it was weirdly difficult to know which of these mattered more to Sam.
The story plays out against a recurring backdrop of Sam’s ongoing battle with alcohol. This storyline actually comes across very powerfully. The message is presented in a forceful way, and Sam’s inability to recognise her problem felt realistic. Although perhaps a little repetitive, this was an area that was given a lot of depth and context, which I really appreciated. Indeed, it was the overarching theme of the book.
The whole thing is written entirely in third person, and although Sam is the main protagonist, it does switch from time to time between several other characters, including the perpetrators. I struggled to fully connect with Sam; some of her actions were questionable and her supposed concern for her daughter’s welfare did not translate into decisive actions. That is not to say that I did not like her. I just lacked that emotional investment in a character which I so treasure.
Of the other characters, most of them are given a lot of backstory, maybe not all relevant to the plot but as this is a series I shall give the benefit of the doubt. It would have been good for the likes of Todd, Jonathan, and perhaps even Brady to have a bit more personality. My favourite supporting character was Wilson, who was caring and had some extra depth.
The writing style was adequate in the main, however for me the dialogue left a lot to be desired. There was also a lot of info-dumping, both within the dialogue (such as a long lecture about drug smuggling in Denver) and the general prose. I would have preferred for things to have been a bit more concise in that respect. It may be the first in a series, but it works perfectly well as a standalone.
As mentioned before, the mystery was much too simple to work out. The answers are clear to see, so that gave the ending less of an impact for me. It actually concentrates more on Sam and how she has moved forward as a character throughout the book, which left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. I wanted more of a compelling mystery.
Overall, there were definitely some things that I admired about this book. The themes explored were impactful and the path that Sam takes during the story is very pronounced. On the other hand, the mystery fell flat and the plot just did not grip me the way I hoped it would.
Betta Ferrendelli has enjoyed a 30-year career as a journalist, working for newspapers in three separate American states. In 2012, she published The Friday Edition, which is the first in the mystery series featuring protagonist Sam Church. The fifth one is due to be released in 2020.
She has also written two novels in contemporary fiction, entitled An Invincible Summer and Last Things.
There were some good ideas in this book, but the writing and the characters failed to keep me fully invested in the story. I understand why others would love it, but this was not really a mystery for me.
My rating: ⭐⭐
* I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.