Book Review: First Born by Will Dean
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: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (July 5, 2022)
Length: 368 pages
They say identical twins are two halves of a whole, and that sometimes their minds are connected. That was how Molly felt about Katie, her sister, her soulmate. But despite looking exactly alike, the two of them could not be any more different. Ever since they were little girls, Molly was aways the shy introverted one, living her life carefully and in complete control because of her extreme aversity to risk. In contrast, Katie was vivacious and outgoing, preferring to jump into life’s opportunities headfirst. When offered a scholarship to attend university in New York City, Katie did not hesitate to accept, leaving her family and Molly behind in the UK.
But now, she is dead. Possibly murdered. Devastated, Molly travels to America with her parents to bring her sister’s body home, but she also wants to find out what happened. Meeting with the police detective in charge of Katie’s case, Molly is saddened to learn that her twin had lived a life she kept secret from everybody else. Soon after Katie’s death is confirmed to be a homicide, the suspects begin to emerge. The perfect boyfriend. The quirky classmate. The landlady’s shady son. The debonair professor. In days, Molly and her parents will need to fly back across the Atlantic, and she knows it’s only a matter o time before the trail for her sister killer will go cold. If they’re going to solve Katie’s murder, Molly will have to take matters into her own hands.
Told from Molly’s POV, First Born was immediately intriguing and engaging to me because of the uniqueness of the narrator. Paranoid, obsessive, and socially awkward, our protagonist made for an interesting character study. At home, she lived as a loner, becoming even more reclusive after her sister left for university. It was a bit unnerving to be inside the head of someone whose mind was always full of statistics about disasters, accidents, and all sorts of unpleasant things, and yet at the same time, Molly was also somewhat relatable and sympathetic. I think deep down, most of us have similar fears and think about the same risks, even if few of us take them to such extremes.
The story itself was a standard mystery—at least for the first half. A college student has been murdered, and initially, the plot stayed true to reader expectations. Police are looking into the victim’s closest associates including romantic partners and friends, and impatient with their progress, Molly decides to do her own digging, using her closeness to Katie to uncover clues that others have missed. The number of suspects meant that the story was never boring, and that the pacing remained fast and unrelenting. Nothing groundbreaking about any of this, of course, but it was intense, suspenseful, and entertaining.
But then came the twist. And it was a big one indeed! I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. That said, it took some suspension of disbelief to come to terms with the revelation, as it changed the entire tone and trajectory of the book. Obviously, I will reveal no spoilers here, but I will say it also made me change my whole way of thinking—about the characters, the mystery, and the overall vibes of the book. For this reason, I have feeling reactions to the twist will be all over place depending on the individual. Personally, I thought it was a bit over the top, and because I couldn’t quite bring myself to give this novel 4 stars, though it was close. At the end of the day, I still applaud the author for his gutsy move.
Overall, First Born was a twisty wild ride, one I would recommend if you are a fan of suspenseful mysteries who also enjoys an element of surprise, as long as you’re also okay with it going hand in hand with a bit of implausibility.