Book Review: Never Tell, by Alafair Burke

I read Alafair Burke’s 212 last year; it was my first Ellie Hatcher novel and I enjoyed it thoroughly. 212 was the third in the series, which means the Ellie Hatcher series is one that can definitely be read out of order. (I wanted to add this right at the start of this review because I have, in the past, raved on and on about specific mysteries in a series, only to discover that a lot of things were lost to readers who read the books out of order; rest assured, that won’t happen with this series.)

Never Tell, the latest book in the Ellie Hatcher series, starts out in a mild way (for a mystery, that is): sixteen-year-old rich girl Julia Whitmire is found dead in her bathtub, suicide note nearby. Ellie Hatcher arrives on the scene and is convinced it’s a suicide, but this pronouncement is not acceptable to the wealthy and powerful Whitmires, who use their influence to assert pressure on the police to continue the investigation into their daughter’s death.

(An aside here: when you see this suicide/possible homicide scenario in mysteries, it’s usually everyone else who’s convinced the case is a suicide, while the protagonist detective feels in his or her gut that it’s murder. I loved that Burke kept the situation realistic, and had Ellie weigh the evidence and decide “suicide”, because that’s what the evidence supported.)

As Ellie is pressured to investigate further, she discovers Julia may have been engaging in some serious cyberbullying. Things take a mysterious turn when the target of the cyberbullying continues receiving death threats. Was Julia the cyberbully? If she was, who’s taken over now? Did she commit suicide, or was she murdered?

I find Ellie Hatcher to be such a refreshing character. Burke has created a strong female protagonist, one who is memorable without being at all gimmicky. Ellie is fully fleshed, and as a reader you find yourself pulled into both her personal and professional lives.

But it’s in the plotting that Burke truly excels. Her plotting in Never Tell is tight and complex; she weaves her plot lines together in a way that will leave you breathless. And just when you think you know exactly where she’s taking you, she throws yet another stunning little twist in, and you’re flipping the pages, reading as quickly as you can, thinking to yourself, “Wow. I didn’t see that one coming!”

After I read 212 last year, I kept meaning to add more of the Ellie Hatcher series to my TBR stack. I was very pleased when Trish Collins from TLC asked if I’d like to join in the blog tour; even though I haven’t participated in a book blog tour in a very long time, I didn’t hesitate to accept.

And when Never Tell arrived, I read it right away, all in one sitting; I stayed up late into the night reading because I absolutely had to know what happened. I loved the very intricate plotting – to me, such complexity combined with an interesting protagonist always proves to be a rewarding read. Never Tell definitely didn’t disappoint.

You can find out more about Alafair Burke at her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter. She recently hosted the second annual Duffer awards, a zany “competition” that pits series characters in the mystery and thriller genres against each other in crazy categories like “Most Likely to Take Down a TSA Agent” (Barry Eisler’s John Rain won that one, beating out Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller) and “Least Likely to be Fazed by Autopsy of Disemboweled Body” (Tess Gerritsen’s Maura Isles beat Jonathan Hayes’s Edward Jenner by a mile).

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Never Tell, by Alafair Burke

  1. Barbara

    I’ve read one of Alafair Burke’s books and have her name starred on my list of authors to watch for, but have never managed to get back to her. This sounds like a good series.


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