"In the tradition of Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History comes a suspenseful thriller from the international bestselling author of The Bronze Horseman—an utterly captivating story about four Ivy League students whose bizarre friendship leads to a twisted maze of secrets, lies, betrayal, and murder."
Sounds good right? Kristina is a star basketball player for Dartmouth. We meet her and her four friends playing a pick up game. There's an odd dynamic between the four from the opening chapters - not what you would expect of friends. Kristina leaves as the game is over to make an appointment with a Howard. Again, a very odd dynamic and a reveal. (I'm not going to spoil it in case you plan to read this book.) More oddness - Kristina happens to catch the eye of a police detective as she flounces around without a coat in the cold. (Much is made of her going without warm clothing throughout the book.) The cop's behaviour is not believable at all. Or is Kristina's or anyone else's for that matter.
So, part one is a (repetitive) rehash of the relationship between the four, both past and present that seems to go on and on. I grew tired of the enigmatic, evasive and mysterious circumstances of their friendships, the philosophical wordplay and bantering. (Stop here if you are going to read Red Leaves - spoiler ahead. I can't help it) Part two finds Kristina dead. And guess who's in charge. Yes, that detective. His police work is slipshod and so far removed from actual police procedure that it's laughable. (More spoiling....at one point he has about a dozen Saturday night specials (guns) in his trunk that he hasn't turned in yet from a bust two or three weeks ago.)
Okay, so the murder is (poorly) investigated. But along with that, every character cannot remember or later (two years in one case) admits they lied. This felt like a very convenient plot device much of the time. And the book continued on long after it should have ended. (The whodunit is not surprising)
I found the writing choppy, stilted and clumsy. That comparison made to Secret History the publisher made? Nope, not even close.
What I subsequently discovered was that Red Leaves was originally published in 1996. I'm sure that Simons' work has become more polished as she has since written thirteen more bookS since Red Leaves and garnered much praise. Sorry to say, but this book was a (big) miss for me. Read an excerpt of Red Leaves.
|Cr: Renaissance Studio
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I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.