Boyer has chosen a great setting for her first Liz Talbot mystery novel, the Island of Stella Maris on the East Coast of the US, in South Carolina. The atmosphere of the place is portrayed vividly, as well as a variety of characters inhabiting the island. It doesn’t sound like a place where a murder could happen, but one does occur – a simple blow to the head. The victim is none other than Liz’s grandmother, and Liz is a private investigator. Following the death of her grandma and after inheriting her estate, Liz moves back to Stella Maris and starts leading her own enquiry, in spite of her elder brother, the local law enforcer. Nearly everyone is family or acquaintance on the island, so it is hard to make sense of why someone would want to kill Liz’s grandmother. Liz will of course uncover what it’s all about, a piece of land with a great potential for development, and it’s something most inhabitants, Liz included, strongly oppose. This was for me the first weak point in the novel: the reason for the murders (there’s going to be several) is not very compelling – not that’s it’s never happened – but it doesn’t get you too excited or put you on edge. The other thing that didn’t gel with me was the high number of characters to remember and differentiate, and they’re almost all introduced at the same time. To be honest, it took me forever to know who was who, and after a while I just stopped bothering; it doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the story but it did annoy me a little. Boyer’s writing is straight to the point. A lot of action and not too much thinking or feeling. I found her style a little too direct and cold; with a little more warmth, it’d be fantastic. The story is good though, well paced and well brought to life. I also loved the role played by Colleen the ghost, one of Liz’s old school friends, who comes and goes in the story as if there was nothing unusual about it. This is a great device and one that gives the story an edge.
Tag Archives: ghost
One millisecond, that’s all it takes, and Mia loses everything dear to her heart. Her life is over. Or is it, really? After a terrible car accident, Mia finds herself outside her body, witnessing her family’s and friends’ distress, the effort of the medical team to save her life, her boyfriend’s struggle to get the right to visit her in the ICU, and her own body fighting death… Soon Mia realises that her fate lies in her own hands. She faces a dilemma bigger than everything she’s ever experienced, should she decide to stay – and face her losses – or move on to another dimension…
The issues of out-of-body experience, afterlife, and death that Mia faces interest me. In my latest novel Body Swap, the hero faces something similar. I was therefore looking forward to finding out how Gayle Forman dealt with those issues in If I Stay. The story is gripping. Mia’s dilemma, her struggle, her hopes and fears become ours. It is impossible to read this novel without asking oneself the question of what we would do, would we find ourselves in Mia’s situation. Forman’s writing is full of vivid images, at times light and airy, at times strong and heavy, such as the minutes following Mia’s accident. But they are always spot-on. I found the questions going through Mia’s mind sometimes a little too obvious or brushed over too quickly, but overall, Forman did a very good job. I did get slightly annoyed at first though when the narrative went from the present to the past, and again, and again. I felt that the flashbacks slowed the action and were a little repetitive. But once you got to know the characters, it was fine. Some parts of the book seem to lack emotion at first, for example the cold way Mia watches the world from outside her body, but in fact it’s a way for Forman to show the distance between the new Mia and her former life – that is until she finds herself dragged back into it – big time.