All Good People Here • Ashley Flowers • ★★★★
Ashley Flowers is the host of the #1 true crime podcast in the USA right now, and her debut novel, All Good People Here, was hotly anticipated—and shot to #1 on The New York Times bestseller list as well.
With accolades from PopSugar and over 20,000 ratings on Amazon (a healthy 4.4 star rating—that's the same rating as The Reluctant Coroner), I wondered how All Good People Here lived up to the hype.
The story follows two narrators: Margot Davies in the present day, who returns home to her Indiana small town to help her uncle who's suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's, and Crissy Jacobs, twenty-five years ago, who comes downstairs one morning to find her six-year-old daughter missing and a mysterious message scrawled in red paint on the kitchen wall.
When another little girl goes missing in a neighboring town, Margot—now a reporter in Indianapolis—must balance her job of getting the current story with her belief that the two cases are connected. It turns out Margot and the missing girl were across-the-street playmates back in the day, and Margot wonders how her closeness with her former neighbos might be coloring her view.
The narrative starts out a bit slowly, with more of a focus on the challenges of taking care of an adult who's slowly losing his memories and his ability to care for himself—but soon Margot's investigation kept me turning the pages. I thought I'd had the murderer figured out early in the narrative, and I was wrong.
The narrative itself is compelling—the publisher used the word "propulsive," which is pretty accurate. But about two-thirds of the way through the story, the investigation takes a turn which feels like it's cheating the reader. Readers who go through a lot of mysteries will recognize the breaking of a major rule—which robs the reader of some of the fun of a whodunit like this. As a mystery author, I recognized it, but it didn't lower my opinion of the book that much.
Then the last chapter and the epilogue came. If you've seen some of the reviews, you might hear praise about the twist at the end and the shocking final chapters, I'm not going to give the ending away, but I found the twist hugely unsatisfying—both what happened to Margot's childhood friend and to Margot. I felt a little cheated—and based on some of the reader reviews I've seen, I'm not the only one. I wish Ashley Flowers had trusted her writing ability more; it felt like she didn't trust herself enough to create a good book without a twist at the end.
Nevertheless, I recommend the book to mystery fans, and I hope, if Flowers decides to write more novels, that she'll trust her talent and keep away from hacky endings.