When suspense stories go bad

Blood Will Out by Jo Treggiari

BOTTOM LINE: Sounds better than it is

Genre: Suspense; Mystery; Young Adult
Publication Date: 5 June 2018
Source: Publisher from NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Ari Sullivan is alive–for now.

She wakes at the bottom of a cistern, confused, injured and alone, with only the shadowy recollection of a low-pitched voice and a gloved hand. No one can hear her screams. And the person who put her there is coming back. The killer is planning a gruesome masterpiece, a fairytale tableau of innocence and blood, meticulously designed.

Until now, Ari was happy to spend her days pining for handsome, recent-arrival Stroud Bellows, fantasizing about their two-point-four-kids-future together. Safe in her small hometown of Dempsey Hollow. But now her community has turned very dangerous — and Ari may not be the only intended victim.

Told in alternating perspectives of predator and prey, Blood Will Out is a gripping and terrifying read.”

My Thoughts: It has only been a little over a week since I finished reading Blood Will Out. Yet not only did I need the synopsis to remind me of the story’s plot, I had to actually stop and think in order to remember its resolution. I frequently forget who the murderer is in mysteries. I also use the synopsis to jog my memory more often than I would like to admit. Yet for both to happen with the same novel speaks volumes as to my attitude about it. If I needed yet another hint that I was not enthralled with the story, I have been dragging my feet about writing this review. With this trifecta of clues, it does not take Hercules Poirot to deduce that I was not impressed with Blood Will Out.

Now that I do remember the plot and the murderer, I have one major issue and several smaller ones with the story. The half of the story told through the killer’s eyes is actually fairly interesting. The matter-of-fact manner in which the killer describes first kills, the beauty of blood, and other hints that all is not well with the killer’s mental health is quite fascinating. However, it is obvious from the very beginning that the killer is trying too hard to hide his or her identity. The lack of identifying features is conspicuous given the detailed descriptions of other remembrances shared by the killer.

It is not just the killer who is trying too hard to be clever and shadowy. The author is doing the same and failing. She does this in little ways, like fairly obvious red herrings or including a cast of characters that are a little too deliberately shadowy to be the killer. Plus, I cannot help but shake the feeling that by making Ari’s best friend a lesbian, she was hoping to get diversity points. Unfortunately, the way this character acts makes me question this choice. Every action she makes or sentence she utters seems to reference her homosexuality, and this rings false to me. I keep thinking of the sentence, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Perhaps I am making a bigger deal out of this than I should, but her characterization has all of the hallmarks of a stereotype, which I feel is the last thing any novel declaring diversity should include.

Those are all minor issues. My real problem with the story is Ari herself. The story and her character start out well. There is not much to do when trapped at the bottom of a cistern after all, so flashbacks are a welcome distraction and help fill in clues about her relationships and other aspects of her life that might help us determine who put her in the cistern. However, a continuity problem quickly develops, rapidly followed by a credibility problem. First, Ari has no idea how long she has been trapped, but she starts to act as if it has been days. She mentions her body shutting down due to lack of hydration and other ill effects of not having had any water. She even ruminates on the possibility of drinking her own pee. However, not more than a few pages later, she is figuring out how to climb out of the cistern and does so even though her body was shutting down not more than a few hours prior. Once she rescues herself, we find out that she was in the cistern for 18 hours. Her reaction to that relatively brief time, with descriptions of her body that reminded me of descriptions of the Donner party, is so extreme that I remained dubious about everything that followed. To make matters worse, Ari is not fully recovered from her ordeal, but she takes it upon herself to find her abductor. The girl can barely see straight thanks to a severe concussion, but she feels she is the only person capable of finding the killer hiding in her town. This was just one more in a long line of credibility issues that frustrated and irritated me with every page.

I said earlier that it felt like the author was trying too hard, and upon reflection that is my overall impression of Blood Will Out. Everything about the book is repetitious and extreme. I already mentioned the lesbian best friend who announces her sexual preference with every sentence. Then there is the killer with the obvious lack of identifying details. Finally, there is the fact that the author does not just tell us that Ari is a member of the high school swim team. She tells us over and over again. Every time Ari is called upon to do something physical, the author refers to Ari’s swim muscles. Such repetition is everywhere throughout the story, and I began to resent it. Not only does it become tedious, but there are no surprises. The killer is not a surprise. Nothing that happens to Ari is a surprise. It is as if there are red arrows pointing at each of the many clues, with said arrows getting larger and larger with every repetition of said clues. There is no nuance. There is no playing detective on your own. Blood Will Out is as an example of everything a good murder mystery is not: a rather large disappointment.

4 Responses to When suspense stories go bad
  1. Ti
    July 11, 2018 | 2:02 PM

    It’s pretty obvious, and painful, when an author tries too hard to impress. This one sounds dreadful.

    • Michelle
      July 15, 2018 | 5:34 PM

      It is indeed, on both counts.

  2. Kami
    July 12, 2018 | 9:40 AM

    Sorry this one was a dud. I’m impressed you jogged your memory to remember an unmemorable book. If I can’t remember a plot or something, it probably means I didn’t love it, and I don’t try to remember what happened in the story.

    • Michelle
      July 15, 2018 | 5:35 PM

      I think it helped that I finished it not too long ago. Besides, I didn’t want to write the review without remembering something about it.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.thatswhatsheread.net/2018/07/blood-will-out/trackback/