Monday, May 28, 2018

Book Review: "Don't Believe It" by Charlie Donlea

Looking for your next beach read? I think I've found it for you: Charlie Donlea's Don't Believe It. A unique storytelling style, full of twists and turns and surprises, this one will keep even the most jaded of thriller readers guessing at least a little bit.

Ten years ago, medical student Grace Sebold and her boyfriend Julian Crist were in St. Lucia, celebrating the wedding of two of Grace's closest friends. After being apart for most of their relationship, Grace and Julian were finally going to be in the same place, as they were both matched to the same residency program. But one night, Julian was murdered, and Grace was the prime suspect.

There was both physical and circumstantial evidence pointing to Grace as Julian's murderer, and it didn't take long for a jury in St. Lucia to convict her. Grace has spent 10 years in jail, pursuing every avenue to get the verdict overturned, all to no avail. But then her pleas pique the curiosity of Sidney Ryan, an up-and-coming documentary filmmaker whose previous work helped exonerate three criminals.

Even though Sidney remembered watching Grace's trial as it unfolded in the media and there seemed to be a preponderance of evidence, she feels there's more to Grace's pleas of innocence than simply wanting out of jail. The documentary she begins producing, The Girl of Sugar Beach, promises to explore the murder from all angles, and within a few weeks, after some eye-opening discoveries, it becomes the most watched documentary in television history.

Every week, the world is held in thrall by the documentary. As Sidney starts uncovering mishandled evidence, additional suspects, and what amounted to a conspiracy to convict Grace quickly all those years ago, she also finds some anomalies she can't quite explain. While the success of The Girl of Sugar Beach will allow Sidney to dictate the path of her career, she has to make a crucial decision: does she pursue ratings, or the truth? Will pursuing the former obscure the latter, and could it result in Julian's killer going (or continuing to go) free?

You can get more of a plot synopsis on Goodreads, Amazon, and other sites, but I'm going to stop now. I went into Don't Believe It almost completely blind to what the book was about, and I feel that was a pretty terrific decision.

This book grabbed me from the very first page. I had suspicions about would happen (I'm one of those thriller readers who suspects every character in a book), but Donlea kept flipping the script little by little, so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. Even as new characters were being introduced, I wondered what the outcome would be, and while I don't know that I was completely satisfied, I like the premise that was hinted at.

I have never read any of Donlea's previous books, so I was really impressed with his storytelling. He took you into to the production of the documentary, and you watched information unfold as Sidney and her crew did. The narration shifted between the past and the present, between a few different characters—sometimes you're not even sure who is narrating.

I will say that there were a few plot threads that were introduced that didn't get explored, and I don't know if Donlea was purposely throwing in some red herrings to confuse the reader or if they just didn't get picked up. That was a little frustrating for me, because there were a few points I didn't understand.

Beyond that, I devoured Don't Believe It pretty quickly. I anticipate seeing lots of people doing the same this summer, whether on the beach, on the plane, or elsewhere. It's definitely a thriller worth diving into!

NetGalley and Kensington Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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