Book Review

Locust Lane

Locust Lane

  • Author: Stephen Amidon
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Publication Date: January 17, 2023
  • Publisher: Celadon Books

Thank you to NetGalley and Celadon Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: harm to an animal (unintentional), murder, gore, substance use, addiction, death, sexual assault, misogyny, self-harm

For fans of Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgStephen Amidon’s Locust Lane is a taut and utterly propulsive story about the search for justice and the fault lines of power and influence in a seemingly idyllic town. Can anyone be trusted?

On the surface, Emerson, Massachusetts, is just like any other affluent New England suburb. But when a young woman is found dead in the nicest part of town, the powerful neighbors close ranks to keep their families safe. In this searing novel, Eden Perry’s death kicks off an investigation into the three teenagers who were partying with her that night, each a suspect. Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history. Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak. Christopher, an outsider desperate to fit in. Their parents, each with motivations of their own, only complicate the picture: they will do anything to protect their children, even at the others’ expense.

With a brilliantly woven, intricately crafted plot that gathers momentum on every page, this is superb storytelling told in terse prose—a dynamic read that is both intensely gripping and deeply affecting.

This is a new to me author, and I was so intrigued by the premise of this story. It had all of the elements that appeal to me—small town with secrets, teenagers getting in over their heads, affluent parents going out of their way to protect their children, and a mystery at the heart of everything. Yet somehow, I didn’t love this one as much as I had hoped.

The story starts off with a bang of a prologue. Literally. Patrick, who is out for a mildly intoxicated late-night drive, accidentally hits a dog running in the street. But when he stops to check on the dog, he gets into more than he bargained for. I was immediately hooked.

The story is told from the POV of quite a few of the MCs. It gave us insight into what was going on from various perspectives, while hiding the truth cleverly and dropping little hints here and there. We get to see what all the major players are like, yet somehow it’s hard to like the vast majority of them. Almost none of them are likable, and it seems like the more affluent the character, the worse they are. Every single one of them has secrets that they’re trying to hide, although some secrets are worse than others. The fact that there are so many POVs also makes it hard to feel close to or connect with the characters.

While the story starts off strong, the pace slows down. Each of the three teenagers denies everything immediately, then we get some more interactions, then one of them will admit to one thing, and repeat. It began to drag on, and I was ultimately just reading to find out what actually happened. But by the time I got to the end, it was completely unsatisfying, and I had figured out who was to blame well in advance of the big reveal.

This was a disappointing read, and the ending was a letdown. It felt entirely too open-ended for my liking. Even as it answered some major questions, it left one loose end untied. While it attempted to tackle major issues like race (one of the characters is French/Lebanese) and privilege, it never really fully did so, and felt like it was trying to do something it never actually accomplished. 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 4

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