Pacing is one of those elusive elements that can make or break a novel. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all optimum pace. Some novels require a slow, methodical storytelling method, while others benefit from having a more frantic tempo serve as a foundation for the plot. In addition to that, the way an author manipulates pace has countless permutations as well. For example, chapter length, volume of dialogue, placement of action set-pieces, and vocabulary choices can all affect the reading rate. Fortunately, whether the intention is a meandering rumination or a rollercoaster race to the end, readers can often sense when the pacing is handled successfully, even if it is challenging to pinpoint the true reason. Take for example, Vanessa Lillie’s new novel, For the Best. It will not take crime fiction fans long to realize that even though the book has a typical page-length for this style of suspense tale, for whatever reason this is a novel that begs to be read at breakneck speed, and is written by an author with the technical skills to capitalize on this instinct by ratcheting up her technique in order to make that desire reality.
When Terrance Castle, an advocate for restorative justice, is found murdered after a huge fundraiser for The Poe Foundation, the police quickly put their crosshairs on Jules Worthington-Smith. Not only was she responsible for getting Dr. Castle entwined with the Foundation, but eyewitnesses place her in the bar with him shortly before his death. Couple this with the fact that her wallet was found next to the body and things are not looking good for Jules. It certainly does not help that Jules was blackout drunk the night of the murder and has no recollection of anything related to that evening.
The police and general public are more than willing to view Jules as their prime suspect, after all, her father was once responsible for the death of another innocent victim, so it just goes to follow that his daughter would have no concept of the true value of life either. But Jules is convinced that she would never do such a heinous act and decides to launch a true crime vlog in order to conduct her own investigation while eliciting help from her viewers.
Vanessa Lillie leverages the vlog format to surprising heights given that this is a novel and that platform is strictly a visual one. By interrupting her prose narrative with sections that convey in script-writing style the content of Jules’ vlog posts, other television reports, and police interviews, readers are privy to the knowledge they need to draw conclusions about the case.
Some readers will no doubt approach For the Best hesitantly, given that there have been many novels which rely on the actions of a drunk narrator to cause confusion and mystery to their plot. The difference with Jules Worthington-Smith is that she is aware of the complications this causes for her life and never tries to justify her addiction – even when there are times that the reader will understand. Once the investigation gets underway, there are more than enough potential suspects to keep readers on their toes trying to figure out what occurred outside the bar the night Dr. Castle was murdered.
Vanessa Lillie populates her story with a diverse cast of characters without ever calling attention to this fact. Just as in life, people from all backgrounds mingle and interact, never feeling like token representation in order to follow trends. This is refreshing for readers and makes the novel feel all the more believable. When the truth is finally revealed, it successfully straddles the line between surprising and inevitable. Readers will appreciate that Vanessa Lillie never takes the expected route to this conclusion and refuses to deflect the difficult positions she has placed her characters in. Murder is a devastating act and For the Best never downplays the long-term effects for those left behind.
With both Little Voices and now For The Best pleasing readers, Vanessa Lillie has quickly established herself as a name to trust in the crime fiction genre.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.