Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Charlie Donlea is beginning to get a name for first class crime fiction. His book The Girl Who Was Taken was a tightly written and enjoyable work; however, it is overshadowed by his latest book Don’t Believe It. This will be a short review. When there is a book as good as this one, all a reviewer can do is tell it as he sees it. This book is outstanding from every viewpoint.
Here Donlea tells the story of Grace Sebold who was sentenced to life imprisonment by the judicial system on St Lucia for the murder of her boyfriend. Having served ten years of her sentence, Grace is approached by Sidney Ryan, a documentary film maker who knows everything about Grace Sebold’s case – or so she thinks. In a series of up to ten weekly episodes, each made as the series progresses and nobody knowing what will turn up each week on their television screens, Sidney works to have Grace released. In this she succeeds. Along the way she meets Grace’s brother Marshall, forensic expert Dr Livia Cutty, Ellie Reiser (Grace’s friend), and retired detective Gus Morelli, all of whom have an interest in Grace Sebold.
The runaway success of the documentary forces the authorities in St Lucia to free Grace Sebold. As the episodes are shown week by week, each episode revealing hitherto unknown evidence and additional suspects Sidney Ryan’s celebrity status continues to grow. However, Sidney’s research untangles a web of deceit that leads her into deadly danger and sends one of the lead characters to life imprisonment for murder. Then a clever twist in the tale occurs.
This is a tightly constructed novel that takes no prisoners. Readers become as involved as the television audience watching the documentary. Sidney is a strong female character – she uses her brain to resolve issues in her path; she is tenacious while meeting obstacles that could ruin both the documentary and her own career.
Grace Sebold is a shadowy character, more often in a minor key, owing to her life in prison. However, when she is released, she remains low-key but demonstrates that her teeth can be sharp when someone threatens the life she is now leading.
The other strong character is Gus Morelli. When we first meet him he is languishing in a hospital ward where he does everything he can to disrupt the slovenly day-nursing staff. A bout of cancer has left him with an amputated leg, and his struggles to have an artificial leg fitted, and himself comfortable wearing it, are the product of a very thoughtful, professional writer. Morelli alerts Sidney to information that diverts her in another direction and tragedy.
The novel is one that dares the reader to put it aside. I could not. There is so much suspense that grows and grows as the novel proceeds, making the book less and less put-down-able. Twists in the novel, the introduction of new characters who meld seamlessly into the developing plot give this book so much of a WOW classification, that I can do no more than classify it as extremely highly recommended.
Don’t Believe It
By Charlie Donlea
ISBN: 978 -0-14-378721-1