The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Noah Calaway is a lawyer (though he's left his city practice) and semi-successful crime novelist who lives alone in a secluded cabin in Devon. A barely functioning alcoholic, Noah is stuck in the past, when he was in love with a beautiful girl, April Moon, "his goddess" and supposed the love of his life. April and Noah were schoolmates and Noah rescued April from a strange situation and her terrible home life. Over time, the two would run into each other and were even engaged for some time. But April left Noah shortly before the two's wedding, and he's never really recovered. However, years later, Noah receives a call from another of their friends, Will. April is in the hospital, nearly dead from an overdose, and even worse, she's suspected of murder. Noah makes the trip to her side, and begins sifting through the pieces of April's life, trying to figure out what happened. As he does, he uncovers a different April than the one he thought he knew--and much more.
This is a suspenseful and fascinating thriller. It alternates Noah's story with a tale of a young girl named Ella, whose tale is told in italics. Noah's story flashes back in forth in time as he recalls his various encounters with April, as well as describes the present day happenings. This is a little confusing at first--it takes some getting used to--but once you're in the groove, the book picks up speed and completely hooks you. This is a feat in itself because our main character, Noah, is not particularly likeable, a bit clueless, and really rather frustrating. The one we truly might empathize with, April, is in a coma, and we only learn about her life through various stories filtered by our potentially unreliable narrator.
But somehow, Howells makes it all work. She's really a master at unfurling the suspense. The story becomes crazily readable (hey, that's a term) quite quickly. The cast of characters is layered, complicated, and complex, but they add to the story and its intrigue in just the right way. The plot leaves you constantly guessing and trying to stay a step ahead. I found myself figuring some things out and kicking myself for missing others.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. Parts of the plot and Noah's actions certainly frustrated me, but the storyline was exciting and fun to read.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 7/26.
You can read my review of Howells' previous novel, THE BONES OF YOU, here.
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