In my review of Charlie Donlea’s The Girl Who Was Taken I commented that I’d assumed the author was female. I wasn’t sure why but said it was perhaps because Donlea delivered the voices of the leads – all female – with great ease and realism.
It wasn’t until I opened Goodreads I was reminded of this again and I was similarly surprised. Again I can only think it’s because he writes the female perspective well. (And I don’t know what that seems strange…)
Don't Believe It
by Charlie Donlea
Published by Bantam
on April 30th 2018
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller
The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history—a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.
As Sidney begins researching, she uncovers startling evidence, additional suspects, and timeline issues that were all overlooked during the original investigation. Before the series even finishes filming, public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. But as the show surges towards its final episodes, Sidney receives a letter saying that she got it badly, terribly wrong.
Sidney has just convinced the world that Grace is innocent. Now she wonders if she has helped to free a ruthless killer. Delving into Grace’s past, she peels away layer after layer of deception. But as Sidney edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career . . . even her life.
This book is very contemporary given the popularity of ‘true crime’ documentaries and podcasts and the like. Indeed, Donlea actually references the Serial podcast and Making a Murderer documentary.
And the decision of Sidney to deliver the 10 part series in real time – well, each week as facts are uncovered – is quite new and of course plays to the increasingly salacious appetites of viewers and consumers.
And Sidney delivers. It’s obvious the St Lucia police did a pretty half-arsed job on the investigation and Grace was railroaded via an incompetent defence attorney and principality, keen to put the murder of an American tourist behind them.
However Grace (a young beautiful medical resident) isn’t your typical accused killer, which of course is what captured the nation 10 years earlier and will again incite interest.
Grace’s (and therefore Sidney’s) biggest problem is that the forensic evidence is pretty cut and dried. Although fairly soon even that seems to come into question as the original murder weapon appears to be incorrect and Grace is able to explain alternative causes of blood evidence and the like.
I can’t say much more without giving things away (though the backcover blurb above overshares a little) however… I did actually guess what happened pretty early on. (Well, the ‘who’ but not necessarily the ‘why’.)
Like in Donlea’s last book, it’s more about the options with which we’re presented. Having said that, the red herrings did fool me for a while and I decided I might have been wr-wr-wr-wrong. But then a few more twists are thrown into the mix. Including one which I suspect may leave readers feeling a bit disenfranchised with the whole book.
It’s twisty, but perhaps a twist too far? Something too unpalatable? I’m not sure… though I did toss the book across the room (non-violently of course, in a flinging motion from the bathtub where I was ensconced at the time!) in disappointment or frustration.
It’s certainly a climax that might divide some readers; and you’ll need to read the book to work that out for yourself.
Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea was published in Australia by Penguin Random House and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.