Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: All That is Necessary by Jennie Coughlin (Exeter #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and a plot that draws you in
Cons: A couple minor things could be fleshed out more
The Bottom Line:
Past shapes the present
With plenty of new drama
You won't put it down

The Past Moves Back to Exeter

Being a reviewer can be tricky when a friend writes a book and then asks to send you a copy to review.  Fortunately, Jennie Coughlin completely understood when I said I would give her debut novel my unbiased review.  Even more fortunately, I loved All That Is Necessary.

The book takes place in the fictional small town of Exeter, Massachusetts.  While the long time residents all know each other, it does have a small college as well.  But even in a small town, there are secrets buried, and some of those are about to come to light.

In August of 1991, teenagers Dan and Evan discovered that the swamp in their local small town was being used by the mob to dump bodies.  In the resulting fallout, Rick’s father was arrested and Rick left town, ruining the friendship between Rick and Dan.

It’s been 20 years since that happened, and Rick has moved back to Exeter to accept the Athletic Director position at the local high school.  The very fact that he is in town makes Dan, Evan, and Rick reevaluate that long ago summer and all they thought they knew.  In a town this small, they are going to have to learn to face each other, but can they learn to live at peace with the past?

Despite the presence of the mob, this is not my typical mystery novel, and that does lead to my only real complaint about the book.  We get some flashback scenes to 1991 scattered throughout the book that help explain what the characters are doing in the present.  But these are presented out of order and don’t give us the full picture.  We get enough of a picture to understand what happened back then, but I wanted just one or two more scenes.  As I said, this was a minor complaint.

I couldn’t believe how quickly I was drawn into the story, and I blame it fully on the characters.  They were sharp from page one and never lost that pull.  Obviously that applies to Dan, Evan, and Rick, who most of the story revolves around, but that also includes Dan’s husband Chris, Evan’s wife Liz, and others who play a part in the story like Riordan and Becca.  These are real people we care about and want to see have a happy ending.

And that explains how I got so drawn into this story that I couldn’t put it down.  I read the second two thirds in one day, most of that in one sitting.  I needed to know what would happen next and how the characters would react.  There was always some confrontation or revelation coming.  And a couple of these characters really do go through the ringer before all is said and done.

One aspect of the plot seems to get wrapped up a bit too quickly in the end, but again it’s minor.  I certainly see the characters getting there eventually.  However, what happens serves the story well and creates a great final scene.  Just be prepared to be left wanting more.  I know I will need to revisit Exeter as soon as the next book comes out.

So if you are looking for a new author to try in 2013, I can’t recommend Jennie Coughlin enough.  You will finish All That Is Necessary way too soon and be waiting like me for your next trip to Exeter.

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