Friday, April 12, 2024

Review: Ghost Island by Max Seeck

by Max Seeck
Release Date: February 27, 2024 (First published September 1st, 2022)
2024 Berkley
Ebook ARC: 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-059343882
Audiobook: B0C6YKFP92
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Jessica Niemi is put on leave after a violent altercation between her and a belligerent man makes headlines. Three elderly visitors have arrived at the inn for their yearly sojourn. Jessica learns that they are the remaining ‘birds of spring’, former refugees who fled Finland as children during World War II and lived together for a few months in an orphanage on the island.

When one of the ‘birds of spring’ is found dead, and Jessica learns about two other deaths from the past, also connected to the orphanage, she has no choice but to try and put the pieces of this terrifying mystery together.

My Thoughts
Ghost Island has a lot of elements that I love in a thriller; an eerie atmosphere, an unreliable narrator, a locked-room type mystery, secrets, and cold cases that have a profound effect on people in the present. And for whatever reason, there is something about nordic noir mysteries that just seem to have this extra feeling of menace and tension to them that I can't explain. 

Jessica is not an easy character to like, but I love the way the author writes her personality. Suffering from schizophrenia, the reader constantly has to decide whether what Jessica sees is actually there or created from her mind, something that adds an extra element to the story, and you have to really pay attention to what you are reading. Because this book is so atmospheric, it just adds layers to what is already a pretty layered book.  Unfortunately, Jessica felt like the only character that was developed in this book and I would have liked to have seen some development from the other characters as well, considering this is the fourth book in the series.  One of the 'birds of spring' was angry at Jessica all the time, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why as it was never explained.  Just being a nasty person isn't enough for a book like this.

The chapters were short and written in a choppy way, but I interpreted it as a stylistic choice to showcase Jessica's instability and mental illness. I will acknowledge that it could simply be translation issues.  Because the chapters did jump around quite a bit, I did think it took away from the tension of the story as well as the character development.  I did enjoy the story however, and I like it when it focuses on emotions rather than difficult political situations as so many murders are emotion/self-preservation based. I wasn't crazy about the ending though, as it did rely on a certain suspension of belief for some things to actually happen the way they did, and I couldn't do it.  I did like how the author turned Jessica's personal life upside in a way she never expected, and I am curious as to how this will propel her life forward in future books. 

Ghost Island definitely had atmospheric feeling to it that I enjoyed, and I really liked the inclusion of Meija's story into the narrative. I don't think this book was as good as previous entries in this series and while it did have a tendency to drag on more than usual, there was still enough in it that I enjoyed.  I do recommend reading the previous entries though, to get a feeling for Jessica's life prior to what happened and her leave of absence.  The story had good momentum in the beginning, but seemed to lose steam towards the end, to the point where I don't think I could coherently give an account of that ending a week after finishing. But it did leave off with enough to make me curious about Jessica and where she is headed. 


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