Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: physical/mental/emotional abuse, domestic violence, stalking/stalkers, death, murder.
Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars (it deserves more than 3, but isn’t my kind of 4 star.)
It’s been exactly a year since I added Not That I Could Tell to my “want to read” GR list, to finally finishing this book. I kept thinking about it throughout that time though, most especially when Jessica Strawser was popping up at bookstores near me, like Joseph Beth Booksellers and Carmichael’s, for book discussions and signings, being that she’s an Ohio local. Even though I had snagged a physical copy, I ended up listening to an audio (yet again) to knock it off the TBR list.
In this mystery/suspense novel, we meet five households that are neighbors in Yellow Springs, OH.
- Kristin and Dr. Paul Kirkland, who have been estranged and in the process of divorce, and their twins
- Clara and Benny Tiffin, who have 13-month old Maddie and 4-year old Thomas
- Randi and Rhoda, and their newborn child
- Natalie, whose military husband is deployed overseas, and her tween, Hallie.
- Izzy, the newest addition to the neighborhood, and whose sister, Penny, is engaged and having a baby with Josh, Izzy’s best friend and long-time crush.
As the novel kicks off, Clara hosts a backyard mixer in which everyone went a little overboard, leaving memories fuzzy the day after. This doesn’t bode well when, at the urging of Paul, Detective Bryant comes knocking on their doors, looking for any information leading to the whereabouts of Kristin and the twins. When Hallie decides to play reporter and eavesdrops on the police investigating Paul, the first glimmers of the truth eke out that point to Paul as a suspect.
Throughout the novel, Strawser bounces the POV to different characters so that the reader can gain insight on the case. Izzy shows sympathy on behalf of Paul, who may be mutually healing each other’s broken hearts. Randi and Rhoda prefer to remain in their happy little bubble of new parenthood. Natalie is too busy trying to stay afloat as a “single” parent and working professional. Clara’s concern and suspicion of Paul stems from the information that Hallie reveals, and her own past with a friend who died at the hands of domestic violence- even though her husband Benny would prefer she move on and stay out of the neighbor’s business. Only until the very ending do we find who really played the major roll in Kristin’s disappearance.
Personally, I admire Strawser for tackling the subject of domestic violence in a way that shows how it could happen anywhere without any obvious signs. Often, the red flags are ignored or so subtle that they are missed, causing intervention to be too late. Strawser does a good job relaying this message. However, if the novel had been a little more streamlined and a little less stereotypical (and predictable), it would have given that message a greater impact. I had issues with Paul’s character development, in that he seemed too obvious as the charming villain, and I also took issue with Izzy’s pining over Josh, which was the obvious way to make her oblivious to Paul’s red flags. If the novel focused less on the small town sub-drama and more on the main plot, it would have been more riveting with a faster pace.
Where Strawser did blow me away was the ending. I didn’t see that smoke and mirrors act the whole time, and just chalked things up to nosy neighbor syndrome. I found it very satisfying and was glad that the reader got some closure on the missing persons case.
Overall, I wanted to really like Not That I Could Tell, but it fell short of my expectations and the hype. I think it was still an entertaining read, however, and would still recommend it for discussion groups and fans of lighter mystery/suspense novels.
TL/DR: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser is a mystery/suspense novel about a woman who goes missing, and the neighborhood’s reactions to the case.
Read it? Yes.
Recommend it? Yes, for discussion groups and fans of lighter mystery/suspense novels
Buy it? I wouldn’t buy this one again, but I think if you do buy it, you wouldn’t be disappointed. However, I suggest reading a borrowed copy or the audiobook before purchasing a physical copy.
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