By Ekta R. Garg
November 20, 2020
Release date: April 9, 2019
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
Twenty years after witnessing a horrific event in secret, a woman goes back to her hometown. This time, however, she’s determined to face the others involved in the secret and make things right. Author Lisa Scottoline stretches the limits of plausibility in her latest thriller, Someone Knows.
After two decades away, Allie Garvey is coming home. She’s received news of the death of a classmate, and she decides to attend the funeral, even though her friendship with the deceased, David Hybrinski, really only lasted part of a summer. The summer she was 15; the summer after her sister, Jill, died from cystic fibrosis.
But going home to Bakerton, Pennsylvania, isn’t about reliving Jill’s last days; it’s about facing the secret that Allie’s kept for the last twenty years. She, David, and three other classmates, Sasha, Julian, and Kyle participated in a prank that went awry. It cost a life, and Allie’s been tortured by the truth ever since. Despite getting married, she’s failed to make a connection with her husband. She believes she doesn’t deserve to have children, so she’s on the pill. And she’s developed ulcerative colitis.
Allie believes the others must be just as devastated by what happened to them that summer, but when she sees them they brush it off. Their callousness shocks her. While she’s worked hard to repress as many memories as possible, Allie can’t let go of the feeling that the facts, as she remembers them, don’t add up. She’s determined to find out the truth and, if possible, absolution.
Author Lisa Scottoline sets up the novel with a prologue that could have belonged to any of the characters, and with Chapter 2 she takes readers twenty years into the past. The next 200 pages are spent parsing the personalities of each of the teens involved in the prank and the events leading up to it. All of the characters have problems that can be found in a dozen other thrillers: absentee parents; incarcerated parents; manipulative parents; homophobic parents; a dead sibling, beloved by parents. By the time readers get through all of the issues, they’ll wish none of the teens had parents since all the complications stem from them.
The second half of the book goes into the lives of Allie and Co. as adults. Predictably, because they were raised by adults who couldn’t manage their own lives, Allie and the others have just as much trouble managing theirs. What follows is a series of events that sound and feel, at times, partially juvenile, partially contrived, and all of it implausible.
Minor characters appear just when Allie needs help, and she incurs a startling amount of clarity about her life in a relatively short period of time. Even while she’s running for her life or making a heartfelt apology, readers may have a hard time feeling like they’ve invested in Allie or anyone else. Scottoline has spent so much time just telling readers about these characters instead of showing their pain and anguish that the climax may be skimmed just to get to what comes next.
While Scottoline does save one big surprise for the closing pages, it, too, doesn’t feel earned. Readers may shrug instead of gasp. Overall the book feels like a cliché cautionary tale more apt for the classic after-school specials that used to air on TV.
Hardcore Scottoline fans might want to check this out; otherwise, I recommend readers Bypass Someone Knows.