Warning! Do NOT start BULLET at night if you want to get to bed at a reasonable hour. The hook is about as good as it gets — sudden and completely gripping. Before you know it, you’re caught up in a psychological thriller with a protagonist that’s both believably ordinary while also managing to be beguilingly elegant.
It’s the old trope of the lovely-but-somehow-single, sophisticated-but-not-quite-arrogant heroine who spends her days teaching, or closeted in the library, and her evenings reading (shades of Belle from Beauty and the Beast). Caroline Cashion’s is an ordinary life, bordering on boring.
But her ordinary life is shattered abruptly by a visit to a doctor over a nerve problem in one of her wrists. An MRI reveals a bullet, which is mysteriously lodged in her neck, and which turns Caroline’s life upside down as she sets off to find out how it got there.
The novel, especially the first half, has its strong points: an intriguing mystery that’s superbly plotted and well-paced. Sadly, the second half fails to live up to the promise of the first. While some excellent surprises are in store for us, it’s the protagonist who turns out to be the story’s weak link.
The mystery of the bullet is solved, but that solution opens up a completely new mystery, one that has Caroline’s character make an abrupt shift, revealing a skill set never displayed in the first half. There’s no explanation for how she is suddenly able to accomplish things without CIA training — or years as a protege of Jason Bourne.
The final twist at the very end is the most bothersome of all because the author suddenly turns Caroline from someone who is initially sympathetic into someone with a very murky set of morals; it could be argued that by the end of the book the nice college French professor is more of an anti hero than a hero.
It felt like the author was trying to resist the urge to have a neatly tied up ending with the bad guys brought to their just desserts by the righteous good guys but she took it too far in the other direction and there was nothing to support the rapid change in the hero’s moral compass.
Nothing in the Caroline’s past hinted that she could survive something as morally questionable as she blithely does with zero qualms, and the reader is left with a sense that the author somehow switched characters midway through the book much the way a stage magician pulls a bunch of silk flowers out of his coat sleeve.
All in all, a worthwhile read, but the excellent twists aren’t enough to prop up the cheap stage trick at the very end.
SPOILER! Read at your own risk:
Nice professor of French literature finds out her real parents were murdered when she was a toddler and the parents she thought were hers actually adopted her. She goes on a long hunt to to find out what happened and finds that her parents’ murder was never caught and the key and ONLY remaining clue to identify the killer is the bullet lodged in her neck. Tightly plotted, really well paced.
She solves the mystery and ends up shooting the bad guy and going on the run, realizing she’s now a vigilante. She suddenly figures out how to evade law enforcement (I must have missed the chapter on how she had all that spycraft training) and then later realizes SHE SHOT THE WRONG GUY. Oops! So does the nice college librarian get upset about shooting and killing the wrong person? Yeah, not so much. She figures out who the real killer is, and does NOT kill the real killer. And…..somehow has zero moral crisis about this. So my question is…..where the heck did the nice college librarian go and who swapped out this morally questionable killer in her place? (Or is the author positing that really, even the nice people are, at their core, morally grey types who could shoot and kill and innocent person and not have a problem with it?) Either way, it didn’t hang together for me.
Cara spent 10 years as a Library Reader’s Advisor in between performing with a belly dance troupe and teaching dance classes. She prefers Swinburne to Shelley, Faulkner to Hemingway, and can be found on most rainy days curled up with a good book and a cup of earl gray, hot.