But Where's The Bear?

The Good Girl - Mary Kubica

The cover and title typography says “I’m smart and edgy! See that reverse ‘R’? It probably means something related to why the blonde chick wants you to keep quiet. Don’t you want to know why?” And you know I’m all over the smart and edgy with the hint of smart, edgy mindfuck.

The blurb says “An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller” among other things and who cares if my computer is telling me ‘addictively’ isn’t a word? Fuck you, New Oxford American Dictionary! A rich, pretty girl gets abducted by a stalker into a cabin in Winterfell, Minnesota to extort money from her rich daddy judge! I gave 5-fucking-stars to The Dark Duet! I am so going to enjoy the Stockholm out of this motherclucker! You don’t know me! 



I tried to live the right way. I tried to follow the rules, but life just didn’t work out that way.

To be honest, the suspense-thriller genre is a Catch-22 territory for me because if the build-up gets too winded, I get impatient; if the mystery is too transparent to figure out, I get pissed off and if the plot-twist intended to blow my mind in the end gets too contrived, I feel cheated. But I still delve into this hopeless adventure because the guesswork is always fun and the characters are, by extension, satisfyingly complex and intriguing.

Based on my kindle app, The Good Girl 340-pages of 3 cliched and monochromatic characters trying to relay the soporific story of Mia Dennett’s abduction with the enthusiasm of a seven year-old hiding a secret I’m not so sure I’m interested to know about. It was like playing a guessing game with someone who keeps on slyly tempting you by building a bland mystery, but they're paying for lunch and so you have to ask them questions and feign interest the rest of the meal.

The story was told from the alternating POVs of Mia Denett’s spineless trophy mom (Eve), the detective assigned to her case (Gabe Hoffman) and her abductor (Colin Thatcher) in varying temporal continuity. Which of course is one source of confusion, since the story shifts and slides with these perspectives i.e. during her abduction thru Colin/Owen; during the search for her thru Gabe; and after she’s been rescued when she only answers to the name of Chloe thru Eve. In the aftermath, she has experienced selective amnesia and you, her family and the detective are trying to piece together what really happened in that cabin.

I rarely complain about a book outside the story and its merits but the galley I read had no chapters with no marker or warning when the POV shifts. I sincerely hope that it’s an uncorrected proof issue rather than a creative writing choice but it really gave me a tough time keeping pace with the rhythm this story intended to set. One moment I’m reading through Colin/Owen’s perspective and without even as much as a paragraph break, the POV shifts to someone else’s. I guess one can imagine how much this would test one's patience, especially with a story lacking the claws to dig deep enough for the reading experience to be seamless and intuitive.

Something has happened to my daughter. Something bad. It screams at me, awakens me in the middle of the night: something has happened to Mia. I tell her we’re going outside. It’s the first time I let her out of the cabin.

That’s EXACTLY how that scene appeared in my reader. So I’d often find myself reading a paragraph back just to recalibrate EVERYTHING in my mind: emotional attachment, perspective, character voice etc. And to make matters worse, I found each of the characters in this book extremely annoying with so much whining and complaining going on. Everyone seems to hate their fathers and finds something to whine about in a way that was meant to earn my sympathy but gained my ire instead. 

It was an endless circle of hate: Mia whines about being rich and neglected; Colin hates being poor and how caring for his sick, loving mother pushed him to be a criminal; Eve hates herself for being a weak mother and a pathetic wife; and Gabe Hoffman was just an all around dickwad with, surprise, a hidden heart of gold. The vilification of Mia's father was ridiculously over-simplified without context or depth: He's bad because he's rich and came from a family of lawyers. Much like how certain characters appear to be racially profiled: the cold and distant Russian OB-Gyne, the Somali mobster... 

...which ofcourse would not have been something that niggled at me had it not been an item in a growing list of frustration points that includes pandering to my sympathies with Colin's mother suffering from Parkinson's, the distracting and pointless sexual tension between the mom and the detective and the poorly hashed development of the relationship between Mia/Chloe and Colin/Owen. I am perfectly amenable to emotional manipulation, I just didn't like the cheap execution this resorted to. Much less that plot-twist at the end that I was dreading because it made very little sense to me, even if I figured it ahead Because if Mia truly believes that her father doesn't care for her, then why would she have herself kidnapped to blackmail him for ransom? Shouldn't she expect him to NOT pay up because it's her?. Or maybe it was because my alienation from this heroine, of getting to know her through the perspective of others that made that last section (which was 10 or so pages from Mia's POV) a point of hostility for me. Doesn't matter, the plot-twist which I guess this book is banking on to salvage this soporific exercise, was a massive fail.

I suppose I should appreciate the character growth in Eve and Colin's whining and frustration rings some social commentary. There was some entertainment to be derived from the survivalist moments in the cabin, as watching two people suffer and freeze to death for reasons only known to one of them tend to be.

She gets her period and we learn the literal interpretation for being 'on the rag'. I see the blood in a garbage bag and ask, 'What the fuck is this?' I'm sorry I ask. We collect our garbage in some white plastic bags that got left behind. From time to time we drive and drop them off in a Dumpster behind some lodge, late at night when we're certain no one will see. She asks why we don't just leave them outside. I ask if she wants to be eaten by a fucking bear.

All my gripes and grumbles, were easily soothed by some obscure Anchorman reference. Even if it only made the lack of bear-related violence in this story more painfully obvious. 

Because seriously, gold mine of a plot twist missed right there.

Review Copy courtesy of the publishers.