Hello, hello! Tomorrow is Halloween, so guess what that makes this post! Yup. Welcome to October’s book review. This month, I decided to try something a little darker, set on an island off of Maine. It’s called Black Rock Bay and it’s by Brianna Labuskes. It was released yesterday (October 29th), so of course I got an ARC. Therefore, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Thomas and Mercer (an imprint of Amazon Publishing), for giving me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Now, let’s get onto the fun part.
Black Rock Bay follows Mia and her newest detective partner, Izzy, as they get sent to Mia’s old home in order to investigate a suspicious death. It’s an unusual assignment since they handle cold cases, but the islanders are secretive and only warm up to their own. Granted, Mia hasn’t been back in fifteen years due to a mysterious suicide attempt gone wrong, but her boss hopes being born and raised there will earn her some good will. As Mia and Izzy dig into the suspicious death, they uncover something far more sinister than the average murder and it takes Mia right back to the time of her life she most wants to forget.
Sounds cool, right? And it is, to a point. I think I’m just going to jump right into my issues with the story. The plot is interesting and plausible, but at the end there are a few loose ends that are never adequately explained. Normally, this wouldn’t be so bad, but it affects the believability of key parts of the story. For instance, why is Ellen so easily manipulated? Yes, people in trouble do weird things, but we never really get to know her motivation which makes her flat and seem like she was added specifically as a tool for the baddie. But my biggest issue was what Sammy did. He had absolutely no legitimate reason for that. And the excuse we get was a vague mention that the baddie might have had something on him. It was a really weak spot that made the whole story less believable. And it was a twist that was completely unnecessary. Even the author couldn’t come up with a better explanation than “psychopaths do things for shits and giggles.” Like, yeah, but this is fiction. There needs to be a reason for all the major plot points or things start to fall apart.
That being said, I really liked the core characters. Mia was strong and a good lead. She had her own issues to face, but fought against them until she absolutely had to deal with them. Izzy was a nice foil, but she could have been more. Lacey was a fun character that was a little hard to read. And Cash was a bit neurotic. I’m not entirely convinced he was supposed to be, but it made him more interesting. The whole reclusive islander thing worked really well. Izzy’s ostracization was entirely believable. No one was overtly rude to her, but they effectively shut her out. That dynamic was probably my favorite part of this book. And Izzy breaking down barriers with some of the islanders was artfully done.
The writing itself flowed nicely and made for an easy read. It was interesting how the point of view swapped back and forth between Mia and Izzy; however, the narrative voice never really changed enough to differentiate the two, so if I didn’t note who each chapter was focused on (it tells you at the beginning of each chapter), I admit I got confused.
Ultimately, I found Black Rock Bay to be so-so. It’s not bad. In fact, the beginning is pretty good. But it doesn’t hold up. It’s not something I’ll read again and it doesn’t make me want to hunt down other books by the author.
Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Probably closer to 2.5 if I’m being completely honest. It just didn’t work for me, but maybe you’ll like it.