Publication Date: June 19, 2012
In Never Tell by Alafair Burke, N.Y.P.D. Homicide Detective Ellie Hatcher, and her partner J.J. Rogan are called to the scene of what appears to be a suicide. A sixteen-year-old with an eating disorder slashes her wrists in the bathtub and even leaves a suicide note. When the wealthy parents of the deceased use their money and connections to bring an investigation, Ellie soon realizes that there’s more to this case than meets the eye.
For me, Alafair Burke has always been one of those authors from whom I’ve read a few books, but while they weren’t bad, they weren’t great so I didn’t make her series a priority. This novel leaves me with one question—when did she get so good?
I did originally like the Ellie Hatcher series better than Samantha Kincaid series. Burke seems to have more of a connection with Ellie and with New York City. Never Tell is the fourth novel in the Ellie Hatcher series and Burke seems to have hit her stride with the character. Burke starts the novel beautifully with a narrative laced with haunting details of a blogger who had been the victim of abuse. My Kindle note after those first few pages simply reads “wow” and that sense of awe set the tone for this novel.
Never Tell does divert into several storylines that really feel like they don’t connect, but Burke does bring them together in a way that makes sense. This sort of diversion can be off-putting to certain readers but didn’t bother this reader at all.
I have read one of the Ellie Hatcher novels and had no problem connecting with her character and a host of others in Never Tell. Does Burke lean a little on the wealthy elitist stereotype of the parents? Yes, she does. I think shows like the Real Housewives of New York show us that we’ll connect to that stereotype and Burke capitalizes on the phenomena. When you have so many characters, it may bother some readers to rely on stereotypes. You may recall, I reviewed a book here when I complained about an author doing that very thing. I think in the case of Never Tell; there are so many characters that these few exceptions probably helped to flesh out what we were reading with bogging down the narrative with wasted explanations. While it may sound negative to put it this way, there’s so much going on, that it’s hard not to excuse a little slip here and there in the craftsmanship of the novel.
My big problem with Burke’s work in the past is the sense of inserting a romance plotline. I have read authors like Alex Kava (whose new work I’ll soon be reviewing) and J.T. Ellison says that, as female writers in the mystery genre, they’re encouraged to insert sex or relationship into their novels. I know in the case of Kava and in the past Burke, those relationships come off as off-putting and distracting to this reader. It’s clear that this is something the author feels like they should do, but aren’t so much into the idea. In the case of Never Tell, Burke adds a minimalistic touch that this reader certainly appreciated that aspect of the storyline. I can deal with sex in a storyline and like it, but I know when it’s done well and when it’s not and when it’s not (see Natalie Gibson whose third novel I’ll soon be reviewing); I don’t want to read it.
If you are a fan of the genre, you may find that Ellie doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. In the case of Never Tell, Ellie was less the lure than the premise — a teen caught up in teen politics and something insidious and huge relating to cyberbullying. Ellie and J.J. Rogan are adults investigating a world of children. We see in the genre trends, and I think that Burke is within a bullying trend. Like Fredman before her, while this is definitely in a genre (mystery/thriller), and conforms to the strictures of that genre, it brings a new spin to a subject that I believe we’ll see come up a lot within this genre within the next year.
Burke trends to write from true crime, and I would be fascinated to read the case on which this novel is based. I would actually love to see some true crime come from Burke though I have to think there’s less traction in that genre.
Alafair Burke is going on my “to read right away” list. Never Tell is well worth the cover price and the time it takes to read and will lead me to go back and read the rest of the Ellie Hatcher series. I’ll probably also read Burke’s Samantha Kincaid series because, as the character got to be an uncredited Reacher Girl, you know she’s got to be cool.
Read an excerpt and buy Never Tell by Alafair Burke on