Sunday, July 17, 2022

Review: The Echoes by Jess Montgomery

by Jess Montgomery
Release Date: March 20, 2022
2022 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250623423
Audiobook: B094DRRR1N
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

As July 4, 1928 approaches, Sheriff Lily Ross and her family look forward to the opening of an amusement park in a nearby town, created by Chalmer Fitzpatrick—a veteran and lumber mill owner. When Lily is alerted to the possible drowning of a girl, she goes to investigate, and discovers schisms going back several generations, in an ongoing dispute over the land on which Fitzpatrick has built the park.

Lily's family life is soon rattled, too, with the revelation that before he died, her brother had a daughter, Esme, with a woman in France, and arrangements have been made for Esme to immigrate to the U.S. to live with them. But Esme never makes it to Kinship, and soon Lily discovers that she has been kidnapped. Not only that, but a young woman is indeed found murdered in the fishing pond on Fitzpatrick's property, at the same time that a baby is left on his doorstep.
My Thoughts
The Echoes is the fourth instalment of the Kinship series, and I thought this was an enjoyable, if not quite as suspenseful entry, as the previous entries. While the writing was excellent and I love the author's descriptions of the time period, I did feel like there was a lot going on, and while that is not typically a problem, it made me feel as if the author didn't quite know which story line on which to focus, so neither was as developed as they could have been which left me feeling a bit dissatisfied. 

Lily is a great character, and as one of few women sheriffs during the 1920s, I enjoy the way she has to navigate between her professional and personal life when women were not taken very seriously in such a role.  As someone who teaches history, I find this time period quite interesting as there were so many changes for women and love seeing that dichotomy explored in novels.  I was particularly interested in the dialogues and frustrations of women who wanted to continue working after they got married, but had difficulties in doing so and how they found solutions that worked for everybody.  I thought all of the characters were unique and had something to offer and I did enjoy the way they interacted with one another; the author definitely use the dialogue between them to highlight important concerns and issues in a way that made you think about social issues and problems that existed during this time period.

Although I did enjoy the overall plot, I did feel like the author may have cut off more than she could chew in this book.  There were a number of different threads going on, and yes, they were all interesting, but I didn't feel like any of them were fully developed.  To me, it felt like the author had all of these ideas but didn't really know on which one to focus so lost sight of the overall concept of the book. What it did is make the overall mystery seem weak, especially in terms of Esme's situation.  Personally, I would have liked the focus to be on the mysterious baby as I found that story line quite fascinating and a reflection of the social issues during the time period.  While I did enjoy Lily's brother's story line, Esme's situation just seemed jarring so I wish it had been more of a secondary story line, without the big disappearance.  I also didn't really buy into the secrecy thing and why it was kept a secret for so long, seemed a bit far-fetched to me.

The Echoes was an enjoyable book, and as part of a series, I do recommend you read the first books to get an overall sense of Lily and her family, although it's not strictly necessary.  I always like the character development in these books and enjoyed learning more about Lily, her family, and the community, and it was fun to learn some interesting facts about these amusement parks that opened in the 192s as well. I do like this author's writing style and her descriptions of the 1920s give you a good sense of the time period, but I did find the overall plot a bit jarring as I feel like the author wasn't quite sure where she wanted to go with the plot, and which aspect of the plot she wanted to highlight.  This is touted as a mystery, and while the overall story was interesting, the mystery was predictable, easy to figure out, and the weakest part of the book.