Never Tell - Alafair Burke I won a copy of this book through the Goodreads giveaway.

I have to say, I really liked this book. The main characters are all well-written and distinct from each other. They all seem pretty realistic, each with their share of good and bad qualities. However, I did forget the names of some of the recurring minor characters when they made repeat appearances, such as Detective Howard in the Hamptons.

I feel a little misled by the words on the cover above the title: “A Novel of Suspense,” which is actually presented as a subtitle here on the book’s listing. I took it to mean that the book was a thriller where someone – I suspected Detective Ellie Hatcher – would be caught in a fight for her life for the killer. The novel’s a mystery, so it’s a given that there will be a good deal of suspense. Maybe calling a book a “suspense novel” is the sophisticated way of saying “mystery” for those high brow literary types who think mysteries are all just pulp fiction for the semi-literate masses. Anyway, to summarize, there was a lot less immediate danger than I was prepared for.

I thought the plot and action moved along nicely, and there were never any times where I felt like Burke was just making the detectives run around chasing suspects in order to waste time and fill pages. Details about the main characters’ lives, namely Ellie’s, were woven seamlessly into the story so that the reader learns what needs to be learned. Sometimes it’s hard to write backstory without going off into the past for big chunks of time that make the reader forget what was going on in the present action, leaving the reader feeling disoriented every time the story goes between past and present. I was a little confused in the beginning with the switch from the first blog entry and the story opening anonymously with “the woman” (5). Then the next chapter introduces Ellie, and for some reason got it into my head that Ellie and “the woman” were one and the same. It took more effort to remember that they were two different people, once we start getting details that make it obvious, than it did to jump to the initial conclusion. I didn’t realize when I entered to win the book that it was fourth in a series, or I probably never would have entered, since I am very anal about reading a series in order. Anyone who’s read the previous Ellie Hatcher books will have a much easier time in the beginning of the novel.

I’d say the biggest flaw in the novel would be the myriad pop culture references. There are a ton in the first few pages. They taper off a bit, but never completely go away. I think “that new show—the one with the blonde in the hat” (8) is a reference to show cop show with Maria Bello that premiered in the fall of 2011, and I already couldn’t think of the name of it (It’s Prime Suspect, BTW, but I had to look it up, and it’s already been cancelled, so in a few years probably no one will get that reference if I’m right about the show). There’s also the story from Katherine Whitmire’s perspective about her husband taking Julia and Ramona to the Justin Timberlake concert three years ago when they were 13, and I was trying to remember whether Justin would have still been that big of a deal three years ago to 13-year-olds, or if Justin Beiber wouldn’t have been a better choice.

Finally, I was glad there weren’t too many typos to annoy me, since the book I have is an ARC, but there were two places on page 316 where Adrienne Langston is called Adrienne Whitmire , which is of course the name of the other main family in the novel. As this is an ARC, I hope that issue has already been cleared up in the first printing.

I can’t find anything else to criticize, so all I can really say is that I enjoyed the book so much that I raced through it in two days, and I’ll definitely seek out bore of Burke’s novels.