Book Review: Limetown created by Zack Akers & Skip Bronkie with Cote Smith
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 13, 2018)
Length: 290 pages
Author Information: Website
I confess I’d never heard of the Limetown podcast, but when this prequel novel arrived for me by surprise from the publisher, I thought it might be worth checking out. Apparently you could read it independently of the podcast, and I figured even if I had no idea who all the character were or the background of the story, the fascinating premise should at least help carry me through. After all, a paranormal mystery about a mass disappearance sounds like just the thing I would enjoy.
The story is told through the eyes of two main characters. Lia Haddock is a seventeen-year-old student journalist whose life is changed forever the day she hears about the disappearance of three hundred men, women, and children at a research facility in Limetown, a small community in Tennessee. There is also a personal connection, as one of the missing is her uncle, Emile Haddock. The event sets Lia on a path to uncovering the mystery about what happened to the people of Limetown, as well as her own family’s connection to the place. Why are her parents so reluctant to talk about Emile and what might have happened to him?
Alternating between Lia’s chapters, we also get Emile’s POV, which takes place years before. Emile is revealed to have special powers, and his strange, secretive ways also makes him a bit of a pariah at his school. He and his brother Jacob (Lia’s dad, who is much younger here) live with foster parents, but Emile cannot stop obsessing about the whereabouts of their missing mother. Running away to look for her, he winds up at a secret research facility where his psychic abilities are identified, resulting in him becoming a subject of forced experimentation.
So yes, after reading Limetown, I have concluded you can indeed pick this story up without having any knowledge of the podcast. But should you? Probably not. After some research, I did learn that Lia is the narrator of the podcast, in which she is a reporter chronicling her investigation into the missing people of Limetown, presenting her findings in a serialized fashion over the course of six episodes in the first season. Perhaps if I was a listener of the podcast, I would have felt a deeper connection to her character, but I found myself really struggling to engage with her chapters while reading the book. Granted, being somewhat reticent and aloof might have been part of her personality, but because the writing seemed to always keep the reader at arm’s length, I never felt truly invested in her storyline.
Emile fared a little better. While Lia was all about getting down to business, Emile had an openness to him as well as a humanness to his conflict which made him a more sympathetic character compared to Lia. However, after a while, his storyline paralleled hers so neatly and unconvincingly, that gradually it began to feel more forced than mysterious.
Though I hate to say it, things became rather dull after that. Part of the problem is that the mystery became lost in all the plodding details about family drama and other unnecessary distractions. The connections and big reveals were also predictably spelled out for you, so as a reader I didn’t even have to work hard to figure things out. It made me question the point of this novel. Obviously, you don’t get any answers about Limetown, since those are probably held in reserve for future seasons of the podcast, leaving this book feeling like a hastily thrown together side story with too much padding.
All told, as someone entering the world of Limetown for the first time, I found it hard to care about anything that went on in this prequel novel. Based on my experience, I can’t really say it worked too well as a standalone, but it is now also clear that I am not its target audience. Perhaps the podcast’s fans will find some things in here that will enhance their experience, especially if you are interested in getting more of Lia’s backstory.