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The Next Time You See Me is an outstanding example of a well-crafted character driven novel. The plot centers on the mysterious disappearance of one of the residents of a small town, Roma Kentucky, and is sufficiently interesting to keep the narrative moving. But the plot in this book primarily serves as a means to intertwine the lives a large disparate group of people and bring each of them to a crossroads in his or her personal development. Solving the mystery of the disappearance of Ronnie creates the action, but the real secrets in this novel are hidden in the cast of intriguing characters that populate the town and the pages of the book. Goddard Jones begins the big reveal from the first page, but manages to sustain the suspense of each character almost to the end of the novel with amazing pacing. She is always pulling back just enough layers through each chapter to keep the reader's interest piqued until all the story lines of the characters converge at the end of the novel. There are no real heroes or villains in this book, just complex, multi-dimensional people reacting from their personal histories in ways that are identifiable and authentic. Goddard Jones presents each character with detail and compassion - the reader may identify with several and will probably sympathize with most. (Even the dogs in Goddard Jones' book had their own individual personalities, talents and peculiarities.) Goddard Jones is such a character author that she gives dimension even to the bit players - the night cashier at the gas station, the dog handler - that probably only appear on a page or two of the book. I was "involved" with these characters in a way that most authors never make me feel and the book ends at a point where several of the characters are right at the cusp of making big decisions for their lives and now I so want to know what they decided. If you are looking for a mystery/thriller, this won't satisfy - you will have the answer to "what happened to Ronnie" early on. But if you've been waiting to meet some new characters that will take you on fascinating internal journeys and stay with you when you finish the book, The Next Time You See Me will be a big hearty meal!
Cassandra Campbell does a good job with the narration. I adore the timbre of this woman's voice - very rich, almost smoky lush, and very suited to a dark, mysterious story like this. She does sometimes put rather dramatic pauses in paragraphs, sentences, and even within a single word (saying worst as wor-s-t or hitched as hit-ched) that might bother me more if this book weren't so engrossing. I'm no judge of an authentic Kentucky accent so I can't say if she got that right, but Campbell definitely does a first rate job of providing unique voices for all characters and this book has many. (She voiced one of the characters much like the voice of Luanne from King of the Hill - I'm sure that was accidental, but it was a little distracting since the cartoon girl image didn't fit with this story at all.)
Overall, I was very impressed by this debut novel by Holly Goddard Jones and hope to see more from her soon. Recommended!
27 of 27 people found this review helpful
The character development is great. The writing is great. And yet, at the end I felt let down. The novel simply seemed to fizzle (ergo the three stars).
Perhaps that is part of the message. Life, after all, is like that -- all kinds of monumental things seem to matter but, in the end, you realize that they are simply a part of life.
The plot revolves around a woman's disappearance and how every character came in contact with her -- while she was alive and, in the case of some, while her dead body laid abandoned in the woods. However, the story is not about the disappearance -- or even the body. It's about all the human dramas that led each character to that particular point in time. In fact, if you are looking for a "good mystery," this is not for you -- there is not much of one (you know who killed the woman pretty early on and even her disappearance does not seem that mysterious giving the kind of life she led). The story is about what makes people who they are -- acting in character and sometimes, for inexplicable reasons and with heavy consequences, way out of character as well.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful