Tuesday, December 18, 2012

book review: Never Tell by Alafair Burke

The backstory: Never Tell is the fourth novel in Alafair Burke's Ellie Hatcher series (my reviews of the first three: Dead Connection, Angels' Tip and 212.) When I accepted Never Tell from the publisher for review in May, I had to read any of Alafair Burke's books. I intended to, so I said yes and figured I'd catch up in a year or two. Seven months and eight books later, I've raced through them all and am already eagerly anticipating her next novel, If You Were Here, a stand-alone thriller coming in June 2013.

The basics: Julia Whitmire, a wealthy, talented, and beautiful sixteen-year-old, is found dead in her bathtub. The cops arriving on the scene classify it as a homicide: her wrists are slit and she left behind a suicide note. Her mother, however, is insistent Julia was murdered and persuades the NYPD to look into. Detective Ellie Hatcher doesn't buy it, but her partner J.J. Rogan is more open-minded.

My thoughts: If I had to describe Alafair Burke's novels in one phrase, it would be "a thinking person's well-written police procedurals." The thrill of the chase cannot be underestimated, but Burke also makes me think about life along the way. She also captures the essence of New York City beautifully:
"Two million people buzzing around on just twenty-three square miles of land bred a certain culture: efficiency in moving from point A to point B; no eye contact or small talk; no connection to the people one passed on the way. And along with that culture came a distinct feeling of anonymity. But the sense of anonymity was not the same thing as actual privacy."
These themes of privacy, anonymity and secrets run throughout this novel. As the web of truths and lies becomes more complicated, Burke uses the mystery to ponder the questions of who knows us best and what clues we leave behind while begging the ultimate question: can we really know the definitive answer? Julia Whitmire's world is more complicated than it initially appears, and while I correctly guessed some of the developments, Burke once again wowed me with the complexity of her plot and the level of satisfaction felt with the conclusion.

Favorite passage: They both believed they could learn at least one interesting thing about human nature from any person they encountered."

The verdict: Never Tell is Alafair Burke's best mystery yet. At first, the case seems deceptively straight-forward and I was surprised by the relatively small number of characters. As the action progressed, however, I was again wowed by how intricately Burke can build a plot. They webs and layers of this one astonished me, even when I correctly guessed a couple of them. Alafair Burke writes contemporary detective-focused mysteries at their very best.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 368 pages
Publication date: June 19, 2012
Source: publisher via Edelweiss

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Never Tell from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

Also by Alafair Burke: the Samantha Kincaid series (Judgment CallsMissing Justice, and Close Case) plus the stand-alone thriller Long Gone.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

14 comments:

  1. I'm a thinking person who loves police procedurals and NYC so this is perfect, LOL! One of these days...

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    1. Once you start, you won't stop! I'm so glad 2012 is the year I finally read Alafair Burke. She's my new favorite mystery writer.

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    2. Which series would you recommend, Ellie Hatcher or Samantha Kinkaid, first?

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    3. Ooh. In terms of procedurals, I'd recommend Ellie Hatcher. The first in the series was my least favorite, but the next three are excellent. I adored Samantha Kincaid as a character, and the mysteries are fascinating, but they're more of a legal procedural than police.

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  2. I like your one phrase description. I like police procedurals when they are smartly written.

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  3. I really liked her last stand alone and plan to read more of her books. The one I read was so smart, but it wasn't a procedural. I will have to check one of those out.

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    1. Nicole, the stand alone is the one I first read, and now I've devoured both of her series in six months. I'm eager for the next one!

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  4. Wow, 5 of 5! I need to get on this series!

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  5. I have never read a book by this author, but your rating for this one has me rethinking the series. I need to find something that will hook me and stand up well enough to read the whole series through. Excellent and very persuasive review today. I like the concept of this one, and think I am off to buy the first in this series!

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    1. Thanks, Zibilee! If you like complicated mysteries, I think you'll really enjoy Burke.

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  6. I've never heard of this series before, but your review has me intrigued. I'll have to look into this. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Kelly, I hope you do look into this series. It's become my favorite!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!