Sometimes it’s harder to read two outstanding crime novels in a row than it is to read books that are just so-so. Authors such as Linda Castillo and Alafair Burke can spoil a reader, and it’s hard to be satisfied with the next book. Both of those authors have surpassed previous efforts with the fourth book in a series. Never Tell, the fourth novel of suspense in the Ellie Hatcher series by Burke is a tightly written, beautifully laid out crime novel. They don’t get much better than this.
It appeared that sixteen-year-old Julia Whitmire committed suicide. She was found in the bathtub, wrists slashed, with a suicide note nearby. NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher saw no reason to believe otherwise. But, Julia’s mother, Katherine Whitmire insisted her daughter would not have killed herself. And, when she used all of her power and influence to push for a full investigation, Ellie was only angry. In her opinion, it was an open-and-shut case.
Ellie’s partner, J.J. Rogan, warned her about her tendency to rush to judgment. She had a closed mind when it came to this case. Ellie had issues with suicides, with parents, and, definitely with rich people who threw their weight around. And, the Whitmires had enough clout to force the police to rush in the course of the investigation. Despite Ellie’s preconceived ideas, there really were a few things to investigate.
Why did Julia’s exclusive school shut down all access to the students, even refusing to answer parents’ questions? Did it have anything to do with a previous suicide at the school? Where did Julia get the prescription drugs found in her possession? What kind of secrets did Julia keep from her best friend, Ramona? Could a group of homeless teens be involved in Julia’s death, even though she appeared to have a lifestyle worlds apart from theirs? And, who was the target of the threats written on Julia’s computer?
Ellie learns there are a number of secrets surrounding Julia and her friends. Each time she and Rogan seem to have a handle on the case, it turns in a radically different direction. And, Ellie may be forced to realize that everything isn’t as concrete, as black-and-white as she would like it to be.
Burke masterfully handles the investigation in Never Tell. It’s easy to be caught up in this story with its twists and turns. Never Tell is pitch perfect. The author plays fair with the reader, but still continues to add surprising revelations, even at the end.
It’s a treat to read such an intriguing story while also encountering characters that are so well-written. Ellie Hatcher continues to change and grow, sometimes reluctantly and despite herself. Once she is forced to admit, even if it’s only to herself, that she has been pigheaded and wrong, she digs into the investigation. And, Ellie has to face those same realizations in her personal life. Sometimes, she is going to have to be forced to compromise, and not be so pigheaded.
Sometimes I can go a month or two reading enjoyable books, but nothing that I would say is remarkable. Alafair Burke’s Never Tell is one of those unforgettable crime novels that comes along now and then. Don’t miss it.
For the second year in a row, Alafair hosted the Duffer Awards in June. Readers have a chance to vote on unusual match-ups in crime novels. Check out the Duffer Awards at http://alafairburke.com/2012-duffer-award-achive/
Never Tell by Alafair Burke. Harper. 2012. ISBN 9780061999161 (hardcover), 355p.