Author: Kate White
Narrator: Jennifer Cohn
Audiobook Length: 12 hours, 46 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell's Books):
"Phoebe Hall’s Manhattan life has suddenly begun to unravel. Right after her long-term boyfriend breaks off their relationship, she’s falsely accused of plagiarizing her latest bestselling celebrity biography. Looking for a quiet place to put her life back together, Phoebe jumps at the offer to teach in a sleepy Pennsylvania town at a small private college run by her former boarding school roommate and close friend, Glenda Johns.
But behind the campus’s quiet cafÉs and leafy maple trees lie evil happenings. The body of a female student washes up on the banks of a nearby river, and disturbing revelations begin to surface: accusations from coeds about abuses wrought by a secret society of girls on campus known as The Sixes.. To help Glenda, Phoebe embarks on a search for clues—a quest that soon raises painful memories of her own boarding school days years ago.
As the investigation heats up, Phoebe unexpectedly finds herself falling for the school’s handsome psychology professor, Duncan Shaw. But when nasty pranks turn into deadly threats, Phoebe realizes she’s in the middle of a real-life nightmare, not knowing whom she can trust and if she will even survive.
Plunging deeper into danger with every step, Phoebe knows she’s close to unmasking a killer. But with truth comes a terrifying revelation: your darkest secrets can still be uncovered . . . and starting over may be a crime punishable by death."
Thoughts: Kate White's The Sixes is an engaging, albeit predictable, thriller that attempts to piggyback on the idea of female bullies and a new wave of feminism that turns the idea of girl power on its head. Between secret societies, mysterious, escalating threats, and eventually dead people, Phoebe Hall has her hands full attempting to determining just what is occurring at Lyle College. While the idea of a female secret society is intriguing, the execution of the storyline prevents the novel from being as suspenseful and as strong as it could be.
The reader will experience several issues with The Sixes, the first of which is Phoebe's involvement in the mysteries. Why would anyone allow a celebrity biographer to snoop around a mysterious death? What makes her better able to solve the mystery than the police? If this were the beginning of a series, about a celebrity biographer/interviewer turned sleuth, the entire situation might be more plausible. Even worse, when someone starts breaking into Phoebe's home, who does not report the incidents to the police? I can understand the need to protect the college's reputation but at the cost of an employee's safety and well-being? These reactions to certain scenes do not feel authentic but rather appear manufactured to add more drama. Instead, they add a sense of incredulity to the entire affair.
In addition, Phoebe remains a distant heroine. Even with a third-person omniscient narrator, the reader does not get the opportunity to learn more about Phoebe's motivations or philosophies driving her actions. There are some rather overt hints, but Ms. White only explores Phoebe's past in fits and starts. There is an attempt to flashback, but the flashbacks are so abrupt and so without warning that the reader does not understand that they are flashbacks until several sentences into the new section. The reader never knows when the action is occurring in the present versus in the past or to which secret society to which Phoebe is referring. It makes for a disjointed story.
This is one audiobook experience where the narrator almost ruins the story. Ms. Cohn has an annoying habit of continuing her accent or inflections past the dialogue and into the "he said" or "she said" sections of the novel. It is distracting to hear a description stated with the rising inflection associated with questions just because the last line of dialogue is also a question. She tends towards over-dramatization and over-the-top reactions that do not appear to fit with the scene. Her hysterical characters are just a bit too hysterical. Someone sobbing is difficult to understand. It is all just too much. Unfortunately, with a novel that is weak anyway, the poor narrator makes it rather difficult to finish.
Putting aside the narrator, The Sixes is not terrible. It does keep the reader's interest through the secret society angle and Phoebe's own history. Unfortunately, the switches between the current situation and Phoebe's boarding school experiences are too abrupt, disrupting the flow and any building suspense. The reader never truly gets inside Phoebe's head, and some of her reactions to situations never quite make sense until the very end. The end result is an audiobook that one can enjoy much in the same fashion as someone enjoys watching B movies or cult classics. It is extremely predictable, somewhat campy, and yet, the reader is able to enjoy it immensely because of that.
Thank you to Beth Harper from Harper Audio for my review copy!