Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Review: Never Saw Me Coming

My project of getting through neglected mystery / suspense ARCs by checking out audiobook copies via work continues, this time with Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian. I think this is another one I may have downloaded thanks to a NetGalley promo email and just like A Likeable Woman, y'all I've been burned.  This is a book that's long on clever premise and not much else. 

Chloe Sevre looks like the picture perfect college freshman. Young, pretty, and an honors student to boot. She also happens to be a diagnosed psychopath. Chloe knew one thing when she started to apply to colleges, she had to be in the Washington D.C. area. She ended up at her first choice, John Adams University, receiving a full ride to take part in a unusual clinical study on psychopathy - Chloe is one of seven students taking part and none of them know who is who.  But the study, the free ride, those are incidental.  No, Chloe is at John Adams because that's where Will Bachman goes to school, and Chloe plans to kill Will Bachman in 60 days.

Chloe gets to work right away, but her plan runs off the rails almost immediately when a student is found dead in the psychology department. A student who was taking part in the psychopathy study. Then a second student ends up dead, another one taking part in the study, and it becomes apparent that someone is hunting down the psychopaths.

Into Chloe's orbit enters Charles, another psychopath running for student body president and Andre, also taking part in the study but turns out - he's a faker. Andre's no more a psychopath than I am the Queen of England, but he saw his opportunity for free college and took a shot.  In between her plans to kill Will, Chloe now is "working" with Charles and Andre to find out who is killing the psychopaths because obviously, well she's in danger. But "working" together for this girl is one part manipulation and two parts staying ahead of the curve.

See, clever premise. So what's the problem? Well for a book about someone murdering psychopaths there's an appalling lack of tension in this book. Like none. No edge of my seat. No OMG I have to find out what happens next! Nothing. In fact I really only kept reading because I kept thinking I was going to get some sort of "twist."  More on that in a minute actually....

The story is also told from multiple points of view and honestly? It's a big reason for the lack of tension. Chloe, Andre and Charles. That's all we need. Do we need chapters told from the lead shrink's perspective? From one of his grad assistants? From one of the detectives? No. No, we do not. In fact they don't really add anything other than page count.

But the real issue I disliked this book? Chloe. Thanks, I hate her. And hating her has nothing to do with the fact that she's a psychopath. No, she's one of those characters who thinks she's smarter than she actually is. Lord is this girl a dumb bunny. She bungles her plan with Will early on, she manages to fall prey to another psychopath in the study (who hacks her webcam) and, most importantly, she can't tell Andre is faking it.  For that matter, neither can the shrink or the grad assistants running the study - which who the hell gave this guy a ton of grant money?  God bless America.  

The whole thing lumbers along, Wendy keeps waiting for the twist, and then we get the frenetic ending that ugh - makes me regret not DNF'ing this stupid book.  Our twist here is no twist at all (I saw it coming the minute the plot element was introduced) and is straight up schlocky B horror movie - or like a romantic suspense novel from the 1990s.  And because I'm so annoyed, I'm spoiling it: 

Spoiler: One word. Twins. And of course the eviiiiilllll twin is the one who seems normal.

I've been reading suspense novels since I hit puberty, so it's possible I'm being entirely too cranky about this one. This debut was nominated for an Edgar Award (Best First Novel) and was named a New York Times Best Thriller of 2021. But honestly, who ya gonna believe? Them or your Auntie Wendy, who's always looking out for you.

Oh what might have been with this clever premise if Andre had been the one driving the bus. Missed opportunities y'all. Missed opportunities. 

Final Grade = D


azteclady said...

I fell prey this week myself to the whole "keep reading for that one twist that may save this cool premise from the so-so to bad execution" thing. It's the worst, because there are good books languishing in the TBR and instead I spent six hours forcing myself to keep going, see if by some miracle the book improved.

(it didn't)

Ah well, it's off the TBR at least.

Wendy said...

AL: It didn't help that I saw a review somewhere on GoodReads mentioning "a twist." Sigh. Just an all around disappointment. Great premise but nothing else for me.