Suspicion has an interesting setting and not much else to recommend about it. Flat, unsympathetic characters, and the pace of a funeral dirge made this one a chore to finish.
Scott Campbell quit his job at the Los Angeles Times and moved to Santa Catalina Island off the California coast to take over the local newspaper and begin a new life. In the midst of a news story he becomes embroiled in the lives of the Lynsky family. Three months earlier, Sam Lynsky, a prominent doctor on the island, and his wife Diana were sailing when she disappeared. Sam claimed he fell asleep and awoke to find her gone. Her body has yet to be found.
The Lynskys’ daughter Ava is still troubled by her mother’s disappearance. She has never been close to her father, an arrogant and condescending man, but she doesn’t know if she can bring herself to suspect him of murder.
Then Scott arrives and she becomes involved with him. He reminds her a great deal of her late husband, who was also divorced with a adolescent daughter when they met. Scott has a needy ex-wife who wants him back and a teenage daughter who wants her parents to reunite. Ava isn’t sure whether she should get tangled in his family drama, particularly when she has so much of her own.
Suspicion could have been an intriguing mystery, except that isn’t the focus of the story. It’s less concerned with what happened to Ava’s mother than with all of these miserable people and their unhappy lives. There isn’t a likable character in the book; all of them are one-note, uninvolving, superficial, or aggravating. Scott, for instance, is an effectual wimp when it comes to his witch of an ex-wife and brat of a daughter. It’s difficult to muster sympathy for such an infuriatingly weak character. And Ava’s emotional setting seemed stuck on “cranky.” She spends half the time stomping around in a perpetual hissy fit and the other half whining.
As for the secondary characters, let’s start with Sam, the kind of man who treats his grown daughters like little children. He bribes their boyfriends to dump the women when he doesn’t approve of their relationships, and strings his daughters along when they want something even though he has every intention of giving it to them, just to maintain the upper hand. Ava’s fiancé is just as condescending as her father. He doesn’t listen to her when they’re talking and he dismisses her as not thinking clearly when she tries to break up with him.
Familial conflict, such as it is, can be found in the attempts of those around Scott and Ava to stand in the way of their relationship, which seemed pointless since the two had no sparks to begin with. Even so, Scott’s in-laws visit to convince him to go back to his wife, and when they see Ava, his mother-in-law makes snotty comments about how Scott’s sleeping around and how Ava could stand to lose some weight. His brother-in-law is sure to mention Scott’s wife to Ava, while on the other side of the aisle, Sam makes a point to remind Scott that Ava has a fiancé who deserves her more than a struggling journalist.
That’s how the book goes. It’s less about the mystery or the relationship than page after page of these horrible people. I hated every single person in the book and reading about them had the same effect of fingernails scraping down a chalkboard. The romance swings back and forth, advancing and retreating, without picking up any true feeling or momentum. It’s simply repetitive, Sam worries about his daughter and Ava complains about her father, Sam worries, Ava complains, again and again. The story moves so slowly and so little of note happens that in the end it was hard to remember what exactly took up all of those 300 pages.
What happened to Ava’s mother? Despite some minor mysterious moments, the mystery is half-baked and the solution drops out of nowhere. If I still had cared by that point, it would have been a disappointment. Instead it was fitting with the rest of this underwhelming story. The author whips up a happy ending in the last twenty pages by affecting sudden personality changes and slapping smiley faces on all of the miserable characters. It was jarring and felt like the end of another book. These were not the same characters I’d spent the previous 280 torturous pages with. There’s no real character growth over the course of the story, just this sudden switch.
The author clearly known the setting well, even if the book does come off like an advertisement for the chamber of commerce at times. Suspicion has a distinctive sense of place. What it lacks are good characters and a good story.