A cultural heist, an examination of Chinese American identity, and a necessary critique of the lingering effects of colonialism.
I’m giving this book a four-star for the literary, emotional and critical commentary rather than the actual heists. They were very faulty, quite convenient plans – definitely full of holes. Thus how they managed to execute them as novices was a suspension in disbelief.
The book is a feel-good about a possible situation where one can earn a tremendous amount of money to remove the burden of responsibilities and obligations while doing something meaningful and morally sound.
A running theme in the novel is the pressure of being an immigrant, more specifically, a second-generation Chinese in America trying to perform to the expectations of parents who believe in the American dream.
The critical commentary on imperialism (from both parties), colonialism, violence, and power were well woven into the story.
Through a kaleidoscope of women – a mother, a sister, a homicide detective – we learn the story of Ansel Park’s life, a serial killer who is scheduled to die in twelve hours.
The latter half of the book was what raised my initial four-star rating to five stars and why I would recommend this book to others. The commentary on the prison system, mainstream media craze about serial killers (especially when they are young and attractive), and how victims are usually remembered at their last living moment (often how they were brutally murdered).
I think the plot was brilliant, as we moved from the perspective of all those whose lives were impacted by the main character’s actions. Furthermore, it was pretty interesting how the main character’s perspective, the serial killer, counted down in hours to his execution and shifted from first-person to a narration (in which a narrator speaks directly to the readers, almost as if they were the murderer themselves).
The author was cautious in how they wrote each character and addressed the sensitivity of serial killers being psychopaths, sexual violence, loss, and murder. I appreciated how they were no violent descriptions of how the victims were killed.
Lowen Ashleigh is a writer who gets a big break when the husband of a severely injured author, Verity Crawford, seeks her to help continue the author’s beloved thriller book series. Lowen, struggling financially, accepts the opportunity and goes to their house with their husband, Jeremy, to read over Verity’s manuscripts. However, she ends up stumbling upon an unfinished autobiography that paints Verity in a terrible light. As Lowen realises that Verity is evil and grows suspicious of the author’s current medical condition, all while developing feelings for Jeremy, she battles with what to do.
Unfortunately, this thriller had so much potential but failed to deliver.
At the very beginning of the novel, Lowen and Jeremy meet in a traumatic manner, but the weight of that incident is brushed upon, which seems very unrealistic (despite the impression that since they both have had the worst traumatic experiences, they could look past the one that had happened in the beginning scene). This situation is very concerning since it’s a romance that grows on the foundation of (unresolved) trauma.
Furthermore, the romance that brewed between Lowen and Jeremy seemed very instant-love. There wasn’t any significant reason why Lowen liked Jeremy so much, apart from the fact that he was nice to her (which I would argue is a low standard). Considering Jeremy’s situation and the other issues in his family, I was surprised that Lowen was not even a bit concerned about a healthy relationship with Jeremy (until towards the end of the novel) and thus began questioning her feelings just lust or infatuation.
Regarding the thriller aspect of the novel, Hoover tried hard to add every stereotypical element for a thriller novel without genuinely exploring them. Many deaths, toxic relationships, and mental health issues could have been better analysed. Sadly, the medical condition that Verity was in and Lowen’s suspicion of it was severely tackled.
In addition, Jeremy’s lack of first-person narration made him quite an unrealistic character. There were many questions left unanswered about him, especially how he was dealing with all the tragic events happening to him and his family.
Hoover added a chapter that turned the whole novel/storyline on its head. While there is nothing wrong with such an element in a novel, it left a bad taste in my mouth with the nature of the story and its issues. In addition, it felt solely for shock value and thus very unnecessary.
Nevertheless, Colleen Hoover is a beloved romance writer, and while I might not pick up another thriller by her, I would definitely give one of her romance novels a chance.