Book Review – Nothing More To Tell by Karen M. McManus

Pages: 352
Published: 30th August 2022
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Trigger warnings: Alcohol dependency, PTSD

This was a buddy read with Ellie @ Read To Ramble, the fourth time we have read a Karen M. McManus book together. Cue lots of fun discussions!

Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she’s sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin’s body know more than they’re telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He’s definitely hiding something.

When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds.

Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it’s time to uncover the truth…

This is a mystery that gathers pace and intensity in gripping fashion, posing many teasing questions before unravelling its secrets in a somewhat overwhelming conclusion. With a concept that is well thought out and executed with an agreeable blend of sensitivity and wit, it is a largely entertaining and unpredictable read from start to finish.

Aside from the customary twists and revelations, this is a more measured and indeed character driven story than you might expect, with the two protagonists given a seriously impressive amount of depth as events progress. Told across dual timelines, there are also nice little references to two of the author’s previous young adult novels, just to make it extra rewarding for the reader.

On her return to her hometown of Sturgis and despite still being a college student, Brynn Gallagher successfully applies for an internship with Motive, a television show that focuses on true crime and cold cases. In her interview she pitches the mysterious death of her former teacher William Larkin, whose body was found in the woods adjacent to their school by three of her fellow students, with each of them treated as potential suspects at the time.

One of those to discover Mr Larkin was Noah ‘Tripp’ Talbot, who four years on is still troubled by the experience and finds himself in a negative spiral, with a largely absent mother and a low self-esteem. Feeling awkward upon being reunited with Brynn, he works with her to try and create a memorial garden for the popular Mr Larkin, but along the way they learn that he was not as well respected as they thought.

Someone is defacing posters of Mr Larkin around the school and as Brynn and Tripp dig deeper, it emerges that he had an elusive past, with several people hiding secrets from that day and having an apparent motive to kill him. In addition to that, Brynn is convinced that Tripp knows a lot more than he is willing to tell her, but she will stop at nothing in order to find out the truth.

Initially, the plot is quite a slow burn as we are introduced to the characters and the facts around the case of Mr Larkin are gradually established, but the pace and in particular the tension does increase noticeably later on. Brynn’s internship at Motive is a very good concept and as the reader you really get to share her inquisitiveness as the mystery becomes more complex.

The number of red herrings placed throughout the story over the identity of Mr Larkin’s killer and a few other key plot points ensures that it truly keeps you guessing, and with this author you have to keep just about every possibility in mind. As a result the list of possible suspects is intriguingly long, and some of the twists are more unexpected than others.

Many of these twists arrive during the final few chapters, which are gripping on the one hand but at the same time there is just far too much going on. It feels like the author wanted to create a lot of edge-of-the-seat drama but manages to overdo it, and as such it feels too chaotic and slightly far-fetched. The change of pace here was jarring and does not really allow you to process things as they happen, but at least it all leads to a reasonably happy ending.

The story is told entirely in the first person as it switches between the present day perspectives of Brynn and Tripp, while there are also some occasional short chapters which go back to four years ago and when Tripp encountered Mr Larkin’s body alongside his two classmates Shane and Charlotte. Both characters are very strongly developed and at first, have a curious relationship that hints at something hanging in their air between them.

In the beginning Brynn is likeable but also quite single-minded, and it was wonderful to see how she gains a greater sense of emotional awareness as she rakes over old graves in Sturgis. As for Tripp, he is often self-destructive and fairly closeted, but when you learn more about him it makes sense and you really do sympathise. His mother is truly awful and he carries a lot of burdens, and all-round he is an impactful depiction of someone suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The relationship between Shane and the rather vain Charlotte was another one where something never seems quite right; seemingly inseparable but not without a hint of resentment. Regina is written with a lot of personality and was good how supportive she was towards Tripp, while one of my favourite characters was Brynn’s sister Ellie, who is resourceful and brings a degree of fun to every scene.

It is not the most distinctive high school setting you will ever see, but the town of Sturgis itself is described in relatively down-to-earth terms and provides a decent sense of place. When Brynn and Tripp travel to Mr Larkin’s hometown, that creates a somewhat threatening kind of atmosphere, in a book that carries real depth but where the writing lacks anything genuinely special.

Overall, a mystery that grabs your attention after a slow start and becomes hard to predict, gaining many layers in the process. For a young adult novel the character development is outstanding and showcases a lot of maturity, but things just get a bit too carried away towards the end as far as the plot is concerned. It does not tick every box, though for the most part still an accomplished read.

After some mixed feelings early on, I enjoyed this book and came to really connect with the characters, such was the strength of their development. As for ending, some of it was good but there was just too much going on. However, another fun mystery from Karen M. McManus.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5


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