With Never Ask Me, Jeff Abbott returns to the exclusive enclave of Lakehaven, Texas – the iconic setting of several of his stand-alone thrillers. Like Blame and the others, Never Ask Me stands on its own with only the fictional setting uniting them. Never Ask Me focuses on the Winding Creek subdivision, bordered on one side by the greenbelt – a wilderness path that meanders its way behind many of the homes in the community.
Sometimes you pick up a book and just have no idea what type of journey you are about to partake in. Never Ask Me is one of those books. Jeff Abbott eases the reader in with what seems like a traditional crime component – a murder that needs to be solved – but then rips the rug out from under the reader, exposing the more thriller-esque backstory that led to this current predicament. This makes for an extremely satisfying, and at time shocking, reading experience.
Never Ask Me opens with two teenagers, Ned Roberts and Julia Pollitt, exploring the wooded area around their homes in search of digital critters to capture while playing the hottest new videogame on their cellphones. Things take a turn for the worse when they stumble upon Ned’s mother, dead, seemingly on display upon a secluded park bench. The discovery of Danielle’s body exposes both of these prominent families to unbelievable stresses, communal suspicion, and internal strife.
The plot in this novel unfolds from many points of view. The four members of the Pollitt are given multiple chapters: The mother, Iris; her husband, Kyle; their daughter, Julia; and their adopted child, Grant. But there is also commentary on the unfolding drama from other unique sources. There are the police interview transcripts relevant to the discovery of Danielle’s body, as well as a few snippets from the notes of a journalist working on a true-crime article related to the incident. The last piece of the puzzle is probably the most interesting, and also the most complex: Iris Pollitt’s adoption journal – an accounting of her family’s trails and tribulations on the path to completing the overseas adoption of their son, Grant.
At the same time the investigation into Danielle’s murder is taking place, Grant is receiving anonymous e-mails telling him that his family has been lying to him. But if they truly have lied, what is it they are trying to keep from him? And who is this mysterious person who seems to know more than they should? In an effort to find out, Grant reaches out to Danielle’s boyfriend’s son, a computer expert and technical wiz. As the sphere of influence expands, so do the risks to everyone involved.
The title phrase – “never ask me” – is uttered by several characters and the topic about which it refers shifts and progresses as the novel unfolds. As the tangled web between these two families grows increasingly dangerous, readers will find their reading pace reaching frenetic levels. There is a point where the desire to know what the hell is going on gets so intense that the final section of the novel must be consumed in as few sittings as possible.
With Never Ask Me, Jeff Abbott has provided the perfect novel for the strange summer ahead. It is a quick read that easily distracts from our real-world problems, while entertaining and surprising readers in equal measure.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.