Well, guys, I’m on the fence with this one and I have been during the whole time I was reading it, so much so that there were several times when I wanted to stop reading altogether. The cover art is beautiful, but the blurbs grated on my nerves. This is far from being “unforgettable”, but this being a mystery, I needed to know who did it, so I finished it.
As you may gather elsewhere, the action takes place in a small Alabama town, where young good girls have been disappearing a few years ago, and no one was arrested. Then another girl disappears, a church-going, straight-A girl who apparently voluntarily left home, and no one in town can find her. Her twin sister, who is deemed the “bad” one, doubts the police and sets about to find her herself at all costs.
There were definitely good things about this book:
- The small town atmosphere of economic struggle, decadence and guilt and intense religion.
- Characters who are deeply flawed but who are trying to do the right thing. The book was not judgmental and I really appreciated it.
- Each sister’s voice and the alternating between sisters chapter after chapter
- The twin sister’s sidekicks Noah and Purv, who really shone on the page. It’s mainly because of them that I kept on reading, to be honest.
There were some things that annoyed me:
- The southern dialect, because I really struggled at the beginning and it slowed me down. As the author is British I have no clue if it sounds authentic or not, I’m sure they checked. It reminded me of the podcast “S-Town” where I really struggled to understand the audio.
- The slow pace for most of the book. Everything accelerated during the last 20%, so much so that I had to re-read certain passages to make sure I understood all the explanations right. I like all the bows nicely tied up and it felt a bit rushed.
- The heavy symbolism: I object in principle to twins as main characters, all the more when one is good and one is evil. Here it was okay, as the book shows that good people often are not that good and bad people not that bad. I also object in principle against use of meteorological events to underline moral issues. Yes, the atmosphere is dark and hot and sticky, but no need to have a unique kind of storm brew and sit over the town for weeks on end. We get it. We would even get it if the sky was blue. Same goes for the resolution scenes that coincide, you guessed it, with the storm breaking under a massive downpour.
There were a lot of bleak secrets and lies, but I still think that the two side characters Purv and Noah saved the book, in more ways than one.