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  • Writer's pictureJulie Mackin

Write What You Know

In which the authors might not be all that they seem

The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill

Stars: 3.5

Publish Date: March 19th

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC

What if those conspiracy theories floating around the internet were actually real? And what if you found yourself caught up in one? Would you be able to find your way out or would you end up joining in? In Gentill’s latest novel, one young writer finds herself embroiled in something quite sinister and she isn’t sure where to turn.

Theo Benton is a young Australian woman who has left law school and finds herself on the doorstep of her older brother’s house in Lawrence, Kansas. She doesn’t want to be a lawyer, instead she wants to write. Gus Benton loves his sister and tells her to stay, write her novel and they will figure it all out. So Theo writes and as she does, she becomes friends with a fellow novelist who acts as her mentor. And then one day he is found dead. And when other people also start dying around Theo, the police begin to suspect she might be the killer. It is up to her, her brother, and their friends to clear her name.

That is about all I can say for the plot without spoiling it, since this is a thriller and you know, I don’t want to completely uncover all the conspiracy bits.

There is some spoiler-y stuff below so if you don’t want too much, quit reading now!

It took me a little bit to get into this book, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Theo, especially because I felt like her stated age in the book (22) didn’t translate well for the story. Or her brother’s either - I felt like they all needed to be a bit older. But once I got over that and got into the heart of it, it didn’t really matter. The pacing in the beginning and middle were good and the story moved along at a good clip but then we had a huge jump and it felt pretty jarring. Gentill spent a lot of time setting up the premise, establishing the relationship between Theo and Gus and going into a fair bit of detail about Theo’s writing process and her novel, all good things and a way to draw the reader in. And then somehow we manage to condense two or three years into a really short section but without really signaling to the reader that is what happened. I think there could have been a way to do this, say divide the book into Part I and Part II, so that you knew that significant time had passed. And I think I wanted that time-lapse discussed in a different way, Gentill peeled back some layers as the last third of the book went on, but I think it would have been ok for the plot to have revealed them soon. 

All in all, I would certainly recommend this book. I enjoyed this one as much as I did The Woman In the Library, which I read a few years ago and was set in Boston. And I have to say one thing that I find truly amazing is that, according to the readers' guides in both books, Gentill has not been to Boston or Lawrence. Instead she relies on research and locals to help her create a sense of place. I am not a conspiracy person myself, but I am not sure how she manages to do this so well without being from these places! I mean, her understanding of Boston  was amazing. And maybe it was the research, but the the little bon mots she throws out to Kansas and Missouri are great (Thomas Hart Benton, Melissa Etheridge, Bleeding Kansas). 

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