Thursday, December 9, 2021

He Started It by Samantha Downing


I had mixed feelings about this author's other work, MY LOVELY WIFE. I thought the story was really good and the characters were delightfully sociopathic, but the pacing was a little off and I didn't like the ending. When I heard about her next book, HE STARTED IT, I couldn't wait. The premise sounded like a blend of THE WESTING GAME and Ready or Not, and the fact that it was about a cross-country road trip to get an inheritance was even better.

Our heroine, Beth, tells us right from the get-go that she isn't exactly a heroine, that she's not a good person. In dual timeline narrative, we find out exactly how true that is. Beth, her husband Felix, her brother Eddie, his wife Krista, and her younger sister, Portia, are taking a mirror of the road trip they went on with their grandfather as children to bury his ashes at the last stop. It seems like a wholesome enough activity and they stop at some really cool places, but beneath the fast food and the Cadillac art exhibitions and the scuzzy motel rooms, there's a dark shadow gilding every step of the trip and its end.

I didn't realize what was going on until the very end of the book which, on the one hand, was kind of refreshing. But on the other hand, it also felt kind of messy. Like a sort of "Gotcha!" ending, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that, especially since it was super vague and I felt like after going on this literal and figurative journey with these characters, I deserved more closure. It shares many similarities with MY LOVELY WIFE: unreliable narrator, morally ambiguous characters, and a clumsy, almost tacked-on ending. I don't want to say too much and ruin this for anyone else, but I will say that if you think you know what's going on, you probably don't.

I'm giving this book four stars because the road trip was great and the pacing was much better than her debut work, and I ended up just enjoying the ride. This book was such an improvement that I really can't wait to see what she does next. She seems to be getting better and better with each work.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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