Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor

Author: Bryn Chancellor
Publisher: Harper
Date of publication: May 2017

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Sycamore was a random pick from my library's audiobook shelf.  It looked interesting, so I tried it out.   18 years before, Jess Winters disappeared.  A newcomer to town out walking discovers her bones in a dried up ravine.  The people who knew her best begin to look at their lives and reveal secrets about the time leading up to Jess's disappearance.

I thought this sounded like a good mystery, however, it was not so much a mystery as an examination of a small town and its secrets.  What happened to Jess wasn't too hard to figure out, so I wasn't surprised by the ending. Her story is slowly revealed as time waffles between the present and the past. Initially, there were a lot of characters to keep track of.  But as the story progressed, it was easier to figure out how everyone fit together. Once the news of the bones spreads throughout the town, each of the characters involved looks back and examines their role the past. They all seemed to be stuck with no great outlook for the future.  Frankly, I thought the characters were all horrible people. No one really took responsibility for their part in the events of the past, even once the story was revealed.  I felt like everyone had an excuse.

I do have to thank the author though.  There was one story-line that I thought was going to go one way. I was a bit disturbed by it, but it ended up going in a different direction.  The story is well written and the reveals were in all of the right places.  However, it does lag a lot and it doesn't really have a happy tone.  I'm not sure I would recommend this one if you are looking for a good mystery.  This is not a very happy story.  In fact, I felt a little depressed in the end.  If you  go into it with that in that back of your mind, you will be better prepared.

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