By Glede Kabongo
Shelby Cooper has a past she’d like to keep hidden. Of course, it won’t be. Her troubles begin when she tries to help a friend disappear from a bad marriage. Said friend ends up dead in her automobile trunk. Shelby is arrested for murder. Her husband, Jason, takes steps to prove her innocence. The troubles aren’t over for her family as her daughter, Abbie, has to contend with a stalker and Jason has problems with a coworker. Oh, and let’s not forget about Jason’s past.
A lot going on here. Some interesting sidelines, but a concern I had was it jumped right into matters with hardly any set up. Sometimes that works but I felt like I do when I watch many British mysteries…as if I’ve come in part way into the story and should already understand what is happening.
Shelby Durant Cooper: 40, black, has a doctorate, large eyes, works in bioinformatics, drives a Mercedes, owns a motorcycle, owns a Golden Retriever, attended Duke and Johns Hopkins, has a brother
Jason Cooper: black, Shelby’s husband, handsome, CFO for Orphion Technologies, father worked for a brokerage firm, has a sister, attended Duke and Texas University
Abbie Cooper: 15, Shelby’s daughter, black hair
Miles Cooper: 11, Shelby’s son
Andrew Clarke: banker, volunteer fireman, large frame, married
Mia Lansing: black, blonde, wears colored contacts, smokes electronic cigarettes, freckles
Greg Marr: co-founder of Bryant International, fit, tanned, salt and pepper hair
Dr. Singer: psychiatrist, attended Harvard, mostly white hair, married with children, owns a dog
Tom Bilko: private investigator, former cop, 6’5”, large arms
Vivian March: Shelby’s friend, thin, art consultant, attended the Art Institute of Chicago
Rayne Revington: 20s, bachelor’s in education, taught kindergarten, brown eyes
Shelby has a stalker who’s making over threats and she acts like she’s a former covert agent. Yes, she’s fearful, but her actions match a professional operative rather than a research assistant/mother. That’s fine, but the reader needs to know that she’s been an operative at the outset. Otherwise, the character comes off as not believable.
The first couple of conversations between Shelby and the bad guy didn’t seem right. Yes, Shelby has a range of emotions because of these conversations, but it’s not exhibited in the dialogue, especially the first encounter. I didn’t see the fear and confusion.
Abbie doesn’t sound fifteen at times, but several years older.
Some of the dialogue sounds forced.
Book divided up into title Parts. Part of the story is first person from Shelby’s POV. Other parts are third person. Relatively short chapters. Profanity. Written in present tense from Shelby’s POV, past tense when it’s third person. One or two times the tense gets switched within one part.
One of the problems I had with the story is the secondary plot regarding one of Shelby’s friends and her efforts to help him and his daughters disappear. The situation is introduced almost as if the reader should know everything about it. There is very little background information. Again, the way Shelby reacts doesn’t fit her character. How would she know to arrange the things she arranges? Plus, the reason for the disappearance isn’t explained. There’s spousal abuse, but I wouldn’t think that would necessarily warrant a trip abroad. Plus, it’s later revealed the guy was going back to his home country, which would be an obvious choice if anybody cared to investigate.
Continuity error: Abbie blocks a boy from texting her on her cell phone and doesn’t reverse the action. Yet days later she receives a text from him.
Some grammar and punctuations errors.
I mentioned some subplots above and I wonder if there aren’t too many. This reads like a soap opera with connections spider-webbing off. This gets complex but there was enough to keep me interested.