book review: The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

The basics: Julia, a first-year student at a small Pennsylvania College, is recovering from tragedy. Sam, a loner who works at the college and harbors a fascination with Julia, is struggling to come to terms with turning forty. Marcus, a fellow first-year student, seems to have secrets of his own, as well as a fascination with Julia.

My thoughts: Everybody seemed to rave about Finny, Justin Kramon's debut novel I somehow never got around to reading. When I heard he wrote a thriller for his second book, I was intrigued. When I began the novel, I was enchanted. Kramon succinctly and beautifully described characters as he introduced them, and as characters observed one another. The stage was set for a creepy, literary novel, and this time of year is perfect.

Unfortunately, the novel soon began to flounder for me. The well-described characters soon began acting more like fictional characters than believable people. Kramon seemed to be letting intrigue drive the story rather than characters. There were too many obvious tropes and too few characters to shoulder their burden. Soon before the reveal, there were a few too many red herrings that detracted from the overall creepiness. (And unless I missed something, there was one glaring red herring left unexplained that frustrates me.) Once Kramon confirmed my suspicions, the novel was more intriguing, but I'd stop short of calling it a true thriller. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed the novel enough to read it in two sittings. I was always engaged with it, but too often I found myself pondering Kramon's motivations rather than being swept away by the story and characters.

Favorite passage: "What do you write?" "Just stories. Some of them are things that happened to me. Some are things I made up. There's so much to write about in the world."

The verdict: Kramon thoroughly demonstrates a talent for describing characters, world building and constructing sentences. Unfortunately, the plot falls flat due its unsurprising twists. While readers who haven't read many psychological thrillers may be surprised, too many of the twists were too easily figured out to satisfy me. Kramon did, however, make me a fan of his writing, and while I wait for his next novel, I'll finally take the time to read Finny. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: October 1, 2013
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Preservationist from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit all of the tour stops, visit Justin Kramon's website, and like him on Facebook.

  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!


  1. I think I'll probably pass on this one since I'm not usually big on thrillery books anyway. Thanks for the always-honest reviews!

  2. I do want to give this a try. I just read another review that gave this high marks so sorry it wasn't better for you.

  3. I'm glad you're now a fan of Kramon! Thanks for being on the tour.

  4. Sorry that this didn't work too well. I enjoyed Finny a lot so I have high expectations for this book.


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