(this is about the audiobook, which isnt an option at the moment on BookLikes)
Lizzie Burke lives with her widowed mother and younger brother in her mother's B&B, which is near the college she starts when we meet her. She makes a few friends on the first day of classes, and things seem to be going pretty well. Until one of her new friends goes missing -- and many (not Lizzie) assume she's been killed. Especially when another girl goes missing not too long after this. Now, as Lizzie and her friends are Criminal Justice majors, I assumed they'd start investigating things on their own, meddling with the official investigations, and get the killer themselves. But nope. They're just on the sidelines, worrying about their friend and the others -- until things happen, forcing them to action.
Meanwhile, Lizzie deals with several guys expressing various degrees of romantic interest in her. All of whom are creeps of the first order. Seriously, she's like a magnet for them. Hopefully before the next book in the series, Lizzie takes a long, hard look at herself and comes up with some basic standards -- or decides not to date until she gets her Master's. I wasn't sure what to think of Lizzie for most of the book really, she was pretty passive as protagonists go. But once she started actively doing things, I liked her a lot.
The tone is light and optimistic -- there's some good relationships established between Lizzie and her family, as well as her new friends. It's basically a cozy with a few very dark and non-cozy chapters thrown in. I think the serial killer's POV chapters could be stronger and more nuanced -- but man, it's hard to get that right if you're not Thomas Harris or Val McDermid. Mostly, it's a bunch of nice people watching something horrific happen in their midst and trying to keep going, and most of that is something I can really get behind.
But I did have a few problems, and I'm only going to talk about them because I think that the book as a whole demonstrates that Shelton has the good to lose them in future books -- and, they all took me out of the moment, ruining whatever illusion she'd built with her storytelling.
The police (and/or FBI) procedural aspects were horrible -- FBI doesn't have detectives, they wouldn't do a press conference that way, there's no need to get college kids pouring through public records when there are literally people at police stations and/or FBI offices that have access to the same information (and more) who can get it faster. There's some other spoiler-y problems, too. On the one hand, the problems don't destroy the story, but man, they took me out of the moment, out of the story long enough to make me wonder about why the author couldn't take a moment in revision to fix things like that.
My biggest problem was that I successfully identified the killer when they first showed up -- chapters ahead of the first abduction, and I never had any reason to question that identification. Which would be one thing if I thought I was supposed to make that identification, but I don't think I was. The various herrings weren't just red, they were crimson, maroon, and fire truck red.
The writing itself was okay -- there was one moment that Shelton did a really nice job showing that X was attracted to Y, and then followed it up with telling us X was attracted to Y, absolutely ruining the moment. There were a few more things like that -- it's almost as if Shelton doesn't trust herself or her readers (or both). Another moment that really stuck out to me was where she described someone's nickname as "a funny nickname" before describing where it came from -- no one gets other kinds of nicknames that aren't just abbreviations of their names. There aren't depressing nicknames, memento mori nicknames, etc. Just tell us its a nickname, describe the incident and move on -- better yet, say R is called S because . . . and let the reader supply "nickname" and "funny" to it. Most of all, trust your readers -- they're pretty clever.
A few other niggling problems -- the chronology at a point or two is hard to follow; Lizzie says a lot with looks, which is fine if that's how she is, but maybe the sentence structure could change a little when she does it? The other part that was hard for me was trying to figure out when this took place -- and yes, it's possible that the year was given in the opening seconds of the book and I missed it. But almost no one used call phones (and one who did, flipped it closed), students used pencils and paper in class -- yet it seemed to be fairly contemporary otherwise. There were enough references to CSI to make it post-2000, but I'm not sure how much so.
Sorenson did an all right job with the narration -- although I'm pretty sure she missed a pronoun or two, and at one point she read a word that doesn't exist -- I had to rewind and listen to the sentence 5 times to figure out what she actually said and then translate it into English. Maybe it was a typo in her copy and she just rolled with it, or maybe she just bobbled the word. Either way, that's just not good.
Yeah, I had a lot of negative(ish) things to say, but I still recommend the book. This book did its job -- it entertained me just enough to keep going and it introduced me to some characters I'd like to spend some more time with (and most of them survived), even if I wasn't crazy about a lot of their choices/actions throughout the book. I am really very curious about what Shelton is going to do with this series, how is she going to put Burke in the middle of another criminal investigation -- will she have learned something from this experience that will help her?
Disclaimer: -- I received a copy of the audiobook from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. Which may not have gone as well as she hoped. I appreciate the book, and the interaction with her (she's pretty funny), but the opinions expressed where fully mine.