Never Tell: A Novel of Suspense – Alafair Burke
Published: 2012 Pages:368
Series: Ellie Hatcher, 4
Setting: New York
“Poor little rich girl.” (page 19)
NEVER TELL (2012) is NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher’s fourth appearance in the series that started with DEAD CONNECTION in 2007. I read ANGEL’S TIP (also called CITY OF FEAR in the UK) and enjoyed it but NEVER TELL was more of a mixed bag for me. I’ll start with the positive. The author’s strengths include drawing upon her professional experience as an attorney to give readers an inside look at courthouse politics and investigative strategy. Those are some of my favorite scenes. The author is really good at keeping up to date with social trends and pop culture. Her characters act like they inhabit the same universe that we do. Dialogue is another one of her strengths. These characters talk like real people talk. Ellie Hatcher is a strong, likable character and I enjoy the camaraderie she has with her partner, J.J. Rogan. Last but not least, there is a subtle but very nice romance.
The plot for NEVER TELL involves plenty of secrets and mingling with the Manhattan elite. The basic premise involves the death of a young teenage girl from Manhattan. Her death looks like a suicide but her mother insists that it isn’t. The police department sends out two homicide detectives – Ellie Hatcher and J.J. Rogan– at the parents request. Ellie makes a rush to judgment in deciding that this is an open and shut case and blows off the parents.
In fact she’s convinced that the scene is exactly what it is – a suicide. The victim’s father is a famous music producer. The family are apart of the NYC elite and are well connected. They make the necessary calls to force Ellie and her partner to re-work the case. The detectives learn all kinds of eye-opening information about teens who inhabit the world of the privileged class juxtaposed with teens who exist on the outskirts of society.
Troubled teen drama makes up for most of the backstory along with some troubling comments made to a blog belonging to a crime victim survivor. There’s rampant drug use among teens for recreational and academic use (to excel). There’s the usual family dysfunctional dynamics. The victim is described as “adventurous” and “precocious.” Ellie and J.J. had to work around the interference from her parents who hire a private investigator seeking private justice on their behalf. The parents have no understanding of the law nor do they care to follow it. Needless to say I got annoyed at their antics and their sense of entitlement. The author throws in a bit of redemption in the latter part of the book but being the cynical reader that I am, I found it very Disney like.
The plot is really thin and was pushing really hard at my being able to suspend disbelief. The plot was spread in several different directions that led to many different outcomes. This book deals with quite a few secrets hence the title. The author just piled them all on top of each other and then slowly unraveled them all one by one. Problem is that there isn’t very much suspense or intrigue behind them. The big reveal(s) were kinda flat. The connections were very thin. This is a very readable book but I could set this novel aside and not miss it.
Aside from that though, I really like the author’s voice. I just don’t think the story idea in here was her best one. I did enjoy ANGEL’S TIP and gave it a B+. NEVER TELL seems to lack the very things that draw me to this genre: suspense and intrigue. Ellie Hatcher really made this book work for me and she is the main reason I kept reading. Ellie has some internal baggage relating to her father who was a cop in Wichita, Kansas. There are some similarities between her father’s case and her current one. Personality wise Ellie can be a wise ass but her flaws and the odd annoyance only made her more real to me.
Ellie’s personal life, especially with Max gets a bit interesting in here. Ellie mentions something in passing that ends up being a huge issue for them. I like Ellie for the simple fact that she knows exactly what she wants and meeting and falling in love with Max, she thought she had finally found a man who truly understands her and doesn’t want to change her. I’m rooting for these guys because they belong together. Their interactions in the book are nice and while not the focus, consider it a side benefit. I do have one niggle though and that is the working relationship these two have while they are dating? I had to consult with a friend about that as I found Ellie dating the ADA on her case to be somewhat unethical. While the relationship could very well happen, it does undermine the credibility of the investigation a bit, I would think.
NEVER TELL is kind of a mixed bag for me but still, I read this book in three days between work and other distractions. So that just means that there wasn’t a problem with pacing. While the plot isn’t the greatest, this is still a decent read. I probably won’t remember a thing about it after I finish it. This is a good beach read. There are some moments of humor especially between Ellie and her partner who have a great platonic relationship. These two know each other inside and out and have each other’s back. I didn’t feel that they were together enough in here.
I haven’t been reading this series in order. I read ANGEL’S TIP first, skipped over 212 and DEAD CONNECTION and just dived right in with NEVER TELL with no problems following along. New readers are welcome to start with this book if interested. If you enjoy stories that give you an inside peek at the exclusive Upper East Side elite and how crime and justice is achieved in their world then grab this book and be enlightened. There’s a lot to like about this book but my overall feelings for it fall somewhere around average. My grade is a C+. I did notice that Dennis Lehane gave a cover quote but it’s a generic one. I echo him in saying that Ms. Burke is a fine crime novelist but I think she can and have written better stories.
Source: Digital arc courtesy of HarperCollins to be released 6/19