Audiobook Review: The Rumor by Lesley Kara
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 (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Random House Audio (June 18, 2019)
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
Narrators: Karissa Vacker, Olivia Mackenzie-Smith
I’ve been listening to a lot of thriller-suspense and mystery in audio lately, and The Rumor was another fun one. Inspired by a true crime story, author Lesley Kara takes readers to a quiet seaside town of Flinstead where single mom and budding realtor Joanna Critchley has decided to settle down with her son Alfie. Being in a smaller and more close-knit community would be a good change for them both, Joanna reasoned, especially for Alfie, who was being bullied horribly at his old school in the city. Even though the move would take them farther away from her good friend and Alfie’s dad Michael, who takes a very active part in the boy’s life, Flinstead is still close enough to the city where frequent visits to see each other would be possible. And with Joanna’s mom living right in town, Alfie can also be closer to his grandmother and they will have a good support system.
At first, however, things don’t go as well as Joanna had hoped. Alfie is still having trouble fitting in at his new school, and Joanna herself is also struggling to make friends among the townsfolk and the tight group of PTA moms. In an effort to gain acceptance, she carelessly lets slip a rumor she heard about a notorious killer who was released from prison years before who might have settled in Flinstead. This murderer, named Sally McGowan, was just a girl herself when she brutally stabbed a young boy to death. If the rumors are true, then this means a heartless psychopath might be living among them right now, hiding out under a guise of being reformed.
To Joanna’s dismay, the rumor quickly winds up snowballing out of control, especially when Michael, a journalist, gets wind of it. Now he wants to write a book about McGowan and is hoping to stay with Joanna and Alfie while he conducts research and tries to track her down. Unfortunately though, the whispers may have already reached the killer’s ears, and who knows how far she will go to keep her identify from being revealed?
The Rumor was such a fun read, and I was immediately drawn to its mystery even though it took me some time to warm up to its protagonist Joanna. She was very much at the center of the novel causing all the drama, and there were times where I just wanted to shake her and tell her to shut her big fat mouth because it seemed like everything that was coming out of it was making things worse! And why did she give a damn what everyone thought anyway, just go live your life the way you want and to hell with all the judgey people who probably aren’t worth your time. But of course, once the narrative gradually established that Joanna was trying to fit in for the sake of her son, I became more sympathetic. Alfie was having a tough time adjusting at school and being one of only a few mixed-race kids in his class wasn’t helping. Joanna would do anything for her son, something I can understand and agree with. She thought she was doing a harmless thing by bringing up McGowan in a bit of conversation, even though she regretted it almost immediately.
Admittedly, the story did take a while to get off the ground. Part of the reason was the amount of setup it required, including Joanna and her situation with Michael, as well as why she felt moving to Flinstead was the best thing for Alfie. Another reason was that there were a lot of characters in town to establish—understandable, considering how the entire mystery hinged upon trying to figure out who Sally McGowan was (and how one of Joanna’s “clues” was that people with new identities often chose names that kept their original initials, leading to a disproportionate number of “S.M.” characters to keep track of). More people meant more possibilities and a better guessing game, though this did result in a confusing at the beginning trying to recall who was who—especially in the first half of the book when character development for all characters was still in its early stages. The audio format also presented its own challenges, though the narration/voice work was fantastic, making it easy to distinguish between the characters.
Still, I have to say that once you got over a certain hump, the flow of the plot improved drastically. Sometimes though, I do wonder if reading more thrillers has made me become a lot more alert to the tricks and trends of the genre because I found parts of the ending to be rather predictable. That said, my enjoyment was in no way affected, and I also liked how certain themes related to guilt, absolution and atonement were explored.
Overall, The Rumor was an entertaining and satisfying mystery-thriller in its own right, and a delight to listen to in audio. It’s also quite impressive for a debut, and I would love to read more by Lesley Lara. I already have her next book in my sights.