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So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears. After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why. The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime. When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.
Okay so I have some conflicting opinions about this book and I don’t know anyone who has read it yet so I can’t sort through those opinions before writing this review. Because of this, I’m likely to be all over the place.
First of all, I’d like to encourage people to read some other reviews for this book before reading it, particularly the ones that point out how the portrayals of Mexican people (or Mexico itself), along with other POC are very stereotypical. I can’t say the author handled that well at all, no matter how well meaning he may have been trying to be with his rep.
Secondly, I want to point out that the big reveal at the end, particularly the reason behind the big reveal, made me uncomfortable. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, so I’m not going to say why, but I think the reveal and that character’s motive should have been handled differently and probably changed all together.
Anyway, now that I’ve said all that, I have to admit that I enjoyed the plot of this one a lot. I think it was a very well written book in terms of the thrilling and mystery elements. I liked that we got several different points of view, the alternating timelines between present day and “before” really added to the plot and the intensity, and mixing up the character perspectives between “normal people” and an FBI agent was a good shout.
I think the story itself was crafted really well, and I was kept on my toes throughout most of it. I did figure out what had really happened, but it came to me just before the main character to figured it out, because I was putting all the puzzle pieces together at the same time as he was.
Some parts of the book were a little ridiculous. I didn’t think there was any need for a tornado warning (I don’t understand the point??), and I don’t think the book necessarily needed to be set in Mexico, it would have done just as well being set in the southern US.
Matt, the main protagonist, was a little dull, and that’s what makes me very glad that this book had multiple POVs. I think this was a smart decision by the author, because Matt knew nothing and he wouldn’t have been a very interesting character to follow if he was carrying this book solo. It was good to see his emotional trauma, but I wouldn’t have wanted a whole book about that.
Instead, the author allows us to follow the investigation through the eyes of an FBI agent (Keller was great), and also showed us the build up to the Pine family’s deaths. This is what really made the book stand out to me, because I very much enjoyed seeing what led to the family’s tragic demise.
I would recommend this book if you’re in the mood for a well constructed thriller because there’s no denying that that is what this is. Please do keep in mind the various trigger warnings, and problematic elements. I would encourage that you seek out spoiler reviews if you want to know more about the issues I had!