Title: Don’t Tell Anyone
Author: Eleanor Gray
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication date: December 8th 2016
Art historian Grace Neville watches Jordan Dukes sentenced for the murder of her teenage daughter, Tara. A few days later, as she attempts to come to terms with her loss, she receives a visit from Jordan’s father, Alan, who claims that his son is innocent and that a grave miscarriage of justice has taken place. Jordan’s violent history in a notorious gang, plus the fact that he doesn’t have an alibi, makes Alan’s story a hard sell . . . until someone breaks into Grace’s home and goes through Tara’s belongings.
In Don’t Tell Anyone, Eleanor Gray explores the relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the secrets that drive Grace to start asking questions before it’s too late.
This blurb is full of promises. A dead teenager daughter. A sentenced boy who might or might not be a killer. Justice gone wrong. Gangs. A search for the truth. A close look at a mother/daughter relationship. And most importantly: secrets.
But the biggest surprise for me was that I finished this book.
I admire authors who decide to make their characters unlikable. Most readers don’t mind it and it is okay for me, as long as the protagonists manage to make me feel emotions, even though it is only anger or hatred. I need emotions, good or wrong, to get involved. After all, you don’t have to be chummy with all the characters you meet, just as you don’t friend every people you meet in the street or spend hours locked in a study room with. But I like my unlikable characters to have a motive for not being what I expected of them. Here, Grace was just a woman I would never want to talk to, would I ever have the luck to meet and get to know her.
It all started with the opening. Grace and her husband are taking a break and decide to tell their daughter. A few lines in and I knew Grace was not my kind of woman. Yes, she was understandably hurt, yes she felt betrayed, but her inner thoughts and reactions sounded a bit off to me. She was clinging to a man who obviously had no more concern for her well-being. I know, it happens a lot. So I let it go with a rolling of my eyes and a sigh.
“I’ve never been very good at being on my own.”
But the next chapter condemned her character to be one of the few I don’t want to remember in a couple of weeks. I am a big fan of “show, don’t tell.” Except here everything is told and what is showed is unnecessary. I can only take so many times a character saying how sad and hollow she feels and just how no one can understand. This is what you get throughout the story, as Grace clings to memories, false hopes and questions about her daughter. I could have coped with a grieving mother if only she hadn’t been so madly in love with her husband and ready to forget everything just to have him back. I guess I expected a strong woman fighting for her daughter, but I met a weak ex-wife in need. Grief can make you do all kind of things, but it was Grace’s personality I had a problem with. If I was angry with her at first, I soon stopped caring for her.
“Everybody has a secret life, a fantasy world in which they are beautiful or handsome and when they can have whoever in whatever way they choose.”
I do need to mention Doug, the only character I warmed to in this story. Big, capable, who can’t be quite called innocent. A Doug is handy to fix issues you can’t handle yourself.
Grace’s family was colorful but again everything was shown instead of letting the reader make their own opinion through the characters’ actions, which made the whole thing rather dull.
Tara was a shadow that I never really got to know or understand, a typical teenager with crises, secrets, and lipstick. Her relationship with her mother is only explored in a superficial way to remind us just how good children are good at hiding things from their parents. I wish I had seen more of their days together to confront it to Grace’s grief and understand her a little better. I did feel sorry for Tara’s boyfriend at times, as well as his family, but our connection was also too superficial to make me care about what would happen to them.
With all of this said, why did I finish the book in one sitting?
I blame my unhealthy need to be right! See, a couple of chapters into the story, I was debating whether or not to give up on the book when Jordan’s father met Grace to convince her his son was innocent. My interest was kindled and I wondered what would make Grace believe him. I kept asking myself how I would react if faced with the same situation. Pages later, a couple of hints appeared and my brain went full on into all-scenario-possible mode. The author had managed to pick my curiosity somehow, despite my lack of feelings for any characters. It certainly had to do with the suspect-husband trope I love so much. Also, Tara had a “big secret” and this word acts like a spell on me. A secret means there is some digging to be done and boy do I love to dig! I ended up with a weird but plausible theory. Theories are good so long as you can verify them. I had no other choice than to rush through the book to check if my instinct was right. The pace of the plot was quite uneven, steady at times, too slow or on the fast track in some chapters, but there was definitely enough red herrings to keep me going. It turned out I was right, so no big surprise but it always feels good when you unravel the truth before it is revealed to you.
The ending itself felt a bit rushed and easy when you think of just how many things Grace had to go through to reach the truth. The gang aspect was a good one but I felt it could have been explored more instead of only relying on clichés and a quick denouement. I had a hard time believing Grace’s issues could be resolved in a couple of hours by the snap of a finger, no matter how capable the fingers! All questions were answered so I did not feel cheated but it doesn’t mean I was satisfied.
Overall I feel Don’t Tell Anyone had a promising synopsis and a lot of potential that was not explored enough for me to get involved with the plot or characters. You might enjoy it if you are looking for an easy read in the psychological thriller genre.
I would like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
You can buy Don’t Tell Anyone on Amazon