Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Review: Substitute, by Susi Holliday

SubstituteSubstitute by Susi Holliday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's difficult to rate this one, as I feel it is more in the 3½ realm, but as there is nothing specifically wrong with the writing it is also not a 3 star.

I have read all of Susi Holliday's books, and I can't decide if it is because she is writing to market now but the quality in the last couple of books is lacking. The premise starts out well and there is enough to lead the reader in, but then it gets bland. The characters aren't particularly likeable - Chrissie is an agitated character who isn't really happy and you don't ever fully understand why, or what the history has been with her husband. A lot is eluded to but never explained. Then Holliday weaves all the threads of the tale together through different perspectives and in this case different time lines.

I noticed more in this book that it is written in present tense, rather than third, and found it more jarring than usual. I think skipping back and forth between time periods rather than finding another way to write the backstory, is not beneficial for the reader because they have to keep checking the chapter titles, which do become irritating. I also felt this style of writing was repetitive and a little tired. I felt the story could have been told in a whole other way with much more tension and suspense.

The storyline in Substitute might have a unique premise, but it became predictable as it wasn't fully fleshed out and wasn't given a chance to run fully before it was all wrapped up neatly. No cliffhangers, all without question, and basic characters who all end up happily ever after. It's a shame a developmental editor didn't help Susi find a better way to draw out the darker side to this story, and it would be great to have a fully fleshed character the reader actually cared about rather than indifferent to. But then this could just be standard for crime thrillers, which are not my preferred genre.

I get the feeling Susi Holliday would do better to write what she really wants, which is dark, scary stories, that aren't necessarily tied to crime or to a market. I still feel that Blackwood and Violet are her best books to date.

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