Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon
Published: January 17th, 2023
Tags: Fiction, Mystery, Murder/Crime, Small Town
| Synopsis from the Publisher |
On the surface, Emerson, Massachusetts, is just like any other affluent New England suburb. But when a young woman is found dead in the nicest part of town, the powerful neighbors close ranks to keep their families safe. In this searing novel, Eden Perry’s death kicks off an investigation into the three teenagers who were partying with her that night, each a suspect. Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history. Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak. Christopher, an outsider desperate to fit in. Their parents, each with motivations of their own, only complicate the picture: they will do anything to protect their children, even at the others’ expense.
Keywords to describe this book: fast-paced, plot-driven, gripping
TW: rape/sexual harassment
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Celadon Books through Bookish First in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
| 📖 Content 📖 |
Locust Lane is your typical murder-mystery. A small town, a large cast of characters, a body turns up, someone’s to blame. Much of the story is told through different character perspectives and their memories of past interactions and events, but the book mostly moves forward linearly. Ultimately, it breaks down to four different families and how their lives intersect, the murder, and which child might be responsible for said murder, with the parents trying to protect and/or clean up after their child’s mistakes.
I found this book to be very similar to other books I’ve read in the mystery genre. However, I enjoyed the story and I found it to be gripping and thought-provoking. I saw a couple of twists before they happened, and I ultimately guessed the murderer before they were revealed, but I still found the story to be worth my time because it offered a chance to be interesting. Unfortunately, the author did not provide the payoff, and so I was ultimately unsatisfied with it and I am left with mixed feelings about the book as a whole.
| 📝 Literary Value 📝 |
I would say the writing in this book is pretty good. It was what hooked me at first. The author does an excellent job of fleshing out the different characters of the story, giving them so many details and interesting histories. With each new POV, I felt like I was getting to know this town and what kind of people inhabited it, who might have motives, how they connected to one another. The prose also kept me turning pages. The pacing of the story is quick, the plot moving along at a steady pace, which is great for me, because it meant that I wanted to keep reading, not put the book down. I prefer this in mystery novels, because it means that I’m usually in for a good story.
The characters are a little difficult to love, but I understand what the author is trying to do in order to keep me suspicious. A mystery novel is usually full of morally grey characters who all have some kind of motive and appear untrustworthy. A few of them were somewhat redeemable, which helped me to enjoy the story more. However, without the satisfying resolution at the end of the book, it makes me more dissatisfied with the characters. The ones I do not like don’t get their just deserts and the ones that I felt any sort of sympathy for do not find any sort of peace or help and so I can feel nothing but disappointment here.
| 🎭 Entertainment Factor 🎭 |
I would say that for 80-90% of the book, I was really enjoying myself. I read this book fairly quickly, due to it’s fast pace and the strength of the mystery. Even when I had realized I knew who the real killer was, I didn’t mind because I was looking forward to seeing how things were going to play out, how they would be brought down. I’ve already mentioned, however, that I was disappointed with the ending. I’d say the last 50 pages or so are the most disappointing part of the book, and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.
I’ve read quite a bit of murder-mystery stories, and when it comes to contemporary mysteries, I know a lot of it is going to be violence against women, often involving rape or some sort of sexual harassment. It’s an easy, go-to story because we live in a world where this happens so frequently that many are desensitized to this fact. I wouldn’t say that it is a deal-breaker for me if a murder story involves this kind of topic, it just depends on how it’s handled and I think this book does a poor job of handling it. It ends up just being a tool, a plot device, rather than something that is handled with delicacy and respect. Nothing new is said and nothing helpful is provided by way of making this particular instance necessary. If I wanted to read a story about rape/abuse that is handled better/well or has a purpose besides just being the catalyst, I’d read something else.
| My Rating |
Locust Lane is a mystery/thriller that ticked all the boxes for me from the start. A varied cast of characters, all with their own quirks and storied backgrounds, the discovery of a body, teenage suspects who clearly aren't telling the whole truth, and twists to top it off.
What I didn’t appreciate, and the reason why I’m only giving the book two stars, is that the ending is unsatisfying. Spoilers! When I read mystery/thrillers I want, in the end, for justice to prevail, for the bad guys to get caught and for the truth to come out. What the author does with this novel is he gives you, the reader, the truth, but doesn’t let it come to light for everyone. A good guy goes to prison, the bad guys continue to live their lives, and everyone who knew the truth is either keeping quiet or is thought to be crazy and has no way of proving what they know. Yes, there is a suggestion that maybe something might come out later, but that’s not enough for me. I don’t want to speculate on whether eventually, after the novel’s conclusion, the bad guys will finally be found out. I want to read it, see it happen within the pages of the story. In this way, the book just doesn’t stick the landing for me.
I’ve see this kind of story many times. But that’s typical of a mystery/thriller. It’s what the author does/says with that story that either makes it stand out or makes it unmemorable. In this case, because of the ending, it feels like just another example of women getting killed, receiving no justice, and rape just becoming a tool to tell a story. There is no significance to it, it is just there to be used against female characters. Now, I know that this can be reflective of real life, but that’s not why I read books. If I wanted real life, I’d read a nonfiction book about rape/sexual harassment/murder. Reading murder mystery should be satisfying, should give you the resolution deserved of the people killed. If not, then it’s just violence for violence’s sake and I might as well open up a newspaper and read that instead.
I would still recommend the book, with the caveat that I would mention that the ending can be unsatisfying depending on what you’re looking for in a mystery book.
How about you?
Let me know what you think! If you’ve read Locust Lane, share your thoughts! If not – are you going to read it or pass on it? Tell me all about it in the comments. Keep up the reading!