I don’t often read mysteries, per se, but I was recently given the opportunity to review the soon-to-be-published Shatter by Nikki Trionfo, a mystery of the best sort by an author of my acquaintance. In my life as a writer, I have the opportunity to meet and learn from many authors and read many of their books. Nikki is one of those authors. Shatter, her debut novel, is set in contemporary California and follows one teenage girl’s quest to get to the bottom of her sister’s recent, supposedly-accidental death. Its pacing is superb, its plot is as twisty and straight as a french braid, and its writing is prosaic but tight, all of which make of a deliciously suspenseful and intense read.
For me to like a book, especially a mystery, it is essential that there is a good “hook”–meaning a strong “whodunit” question posed at the very beginning–quickly followed by a steady, brisk accumulation of clues, red herrings, and well-structured chapters. I don’t like mysteries that spend all their time meandering toward an ending that is simply pulled out of nowhere, like Forever Odd by Dean Koontz, in my opinion. I like stories that neither insult me with their simplicity, nor confuse me with their pretentious overcomplicatedness. Shatter‘s plot steps briskly from hook to observation to next clue to twist throughout, which is awesome. The teenage girl main character Salem Jefferson unexpectedly finds herself in the middle of a fight between peach growers (one of whom is her father), the union representatives that fight for the interests of the migrant workers that the growers hire, and the hispanic gangs that feed on the desperation of those migrant workers. This unique premise is refreshing, and the fact that she dovetails it into Salem’s class assignment to debate the lingering conspiracy theories surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is masterful.
And, oh, the twists! They are so amazingly unpredictable-but-completely-slap-your-forehead-foreseeable, and they all weave smartly toward an ending that is truly an expected surprise. Brilliant, Nikki. Just brilliant. Along the way, Nikki provides not just one red herring, but several, which is not easy to do. And all of them seem feasible. Throughout, her writing is prosaic but tight, delivered in a kind of in-your-face present tense that hikes the tension from page one. Take this example:
“I searched news sites this morning and learned his sister was expected to live. I was blissful at the news. Jealous. Carrie didn’t live. The little girl did live–a drop of innocence in gang-infested waters.”
I give Shatter a solid 9.5 out of 10 stars. The only things that keep me from giving it the full 10 are the fact that I never really felt like I had a good picture in my mind of what most of the characters looked like, which isn’t a crucial element, but still one I enjoy. Also, there were a few typos in my advanced reader copy, which was a tiny bit distracting to my always-editing mind. Other than that, it was an excellent read.
Nikki was gracious enough to provide this guest post with a “behind the scenes” look at Shatter, and some thoughts on her writing process. She’s hosting a plethora of book launch giveaways and festivities that will coincide with the book’s release on May 9th.
For a chance to win a $30 Amazon gift card:
- comment on this post and tell me what most makes you want to read the book and/or enter the Inspired by Shatter contest
- Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below.
For a chance to Win a Copy of the Book, Plus…
To enter to win a raffle for a copy of the book, plus one given to the middle or high school of your choice, or $50, go to http://www.nikkitrionfo.com/InspiredbyShatter/. Basically, Inspired by Shatter is a social media campaign to get the word out about the book. To participate, people make a Facebook or Instagram post with the theme Inspired by Shatter using the hashtags #ShattertheBook and #DanceOffMay19.