Five women gathered around the fire-pit, happily sipping their wine while their baby monitors crackled in a circle. By morning there only would be FOUR.
Not That I Could Tell is the sophomore novel by Jessica Strawser, a captivating tale of suburbia, the secrets that are hidden behind neighbors’ closed doors and the question we all ask ourselves – how well do we really know our neighbors?
Clare hosts the party for the women in the neighborhood to christen her new patio. They are simply thrilled to have a night away from the kids, a chance to gossip among themselves and to share secrets with one another that, normally, they would tell no one. However, one of the women – Kristin – has a dark secret that she has shared with no one. They never suspect the things she has kept hidden – no one would believe her if she told them. When the women awaken, Kristin and her children are gone without a trace. Did she leave willingly or did something more sinister happen to her? Suspicion falls on her husband, a doctor, but some – like new neighbor Izzy – want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Is he innocent as Izzy believes or is she walking into danger as the other women fear?
There are those who have compared this book to Sally Hepworth’s, The Neighbor Next Door; however, while both books draw on the idea of suburban housewives, Strawser does a better job of keeping her characters believable. These women, all of them, are women that I feel as though I know or have known. Strawser is a Midwestern writer and the story is set in a small town in Ohio, so the characters and the community seem quite familiar to me as a reader from the Midwest. That said, the book does have some flaws, the largest is that it is too long – or rather, it could have done with some editing. There were conversations that these characters had with themselves – in their own heads – that were repetitious. After a while I found myself skipping over some of them because I wanted to scream, “I get it!” This wasn’t enough to detract from my overall satisfaction with the book, but it does keep me from rating the book higher. I had this same issue with Strawser’s first novel, I Almost Missed You, so hopefully by her third book someone will get the message.
For a second book it’s amazing, most fall far short of the first. For a domestic thriller, it is top notch. As a mystery, it is a slow burner, so if you like fast paced thrillers this is not for you. However, I highly recommend it and am very pleased to say that we, in the Midwest, have another good writer to add to our shelves.