Hello, Transcriber by Hannah Morrissey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A truly compulsive read! This thriller had ominous, creepy overtones that kept me turning the pages.
The first person narrator is a mixed bag: a young, very pretty, aspiring writer with a college degree who still comes across as a wet behind the ears “podunk” – as she is often fondly referred to by her illicit love interest, Inspector Nikolai Kole.
Hazel’s marriage is on the rocks. She married young (at sixteen if I remember correctly!) and her sex life is literally too painful for words (and downright brutal if you ask me!) While I truly could not put this book down, there were elements of this story that needed fleshing out. What was the traumatic incident that created this psychosomatic response in Hazel? Why did her mother leave her father, abandoning her young children in the process? And that MAJOR twist during the last few chapters of the novel literally came out of nowhere (no spoilers here.) The author did manage to add spice and interest to several well-worn tropes, but I was often left wanting more backstory or details.
If this author tires of writing thrillers, she would do well in the romance line: Nikolai Kole is your typical drop-dead gorgeous loner SIU cop who is unattainable – that is, until he meets young Hazel. Their encounters usually had me holding my breath – they were sizzling hot!
At a few points in the novel I feared for Hazel’s sanity. Her character became incredibly paranoid and even doubted Kole’s identity/existence. Hazel admits to her sister Elle that she is not a very nice person, and yet the author creates several scenarios where the reader is induced to feel sorry for poor, put-upon Hazel. The ending had some major “about-faces” that again had me doubting Hazel’s sanity or the intended direction of this story. I wondered if these out of the blue reversals or sudden character wheel-arounds could be attributed to an abandoned plot line or last minute editing? There are quite a few holes in this story that still have me puzzled. Firstly, if Tommy was an aquatic ecologist, he had to have a Bachelors Degree in that field as well as have done some post-graduate work, and yet he is portrayed as an uncouth, inconsiderate oaf who has very little regard for the animal kingdom. And if Tommy was so tightfisted, who paid for Hazel’s years in college while she earned her degree in English? I also have to say that the last third of the novel was not as emotionally compelling as the first two-thirds, but those final, graphic action scenes kept my attention riveted up to the very last page.
Did I guess the culprit? Hard not to: there were so few suspects left alive at the end of this story. This is the author’s second novel. She writes well, but she shares the same affliction that many young authors suffer from: a love affair with their dictionaries. I can throw no stones because I love a new, intriguing word and I used to memorize a new word every day in my teens. The problem with including these intriguing new words in a novel is that you interrupt the flow of the narrative and risk alienating your reader. I stopped looking up the many “tantalizing new words” towards the middle: they really didn’t add to the story and I just got plain tired of having to reread the paragraph to put the unknown word in context. Hannah Morrissey hopes to impress and entertain her readers. For the most part, she certainly did that, but throwing in those numerous “fifty-cent words” – as I like to call them – lost her a rating point with me.
I suspect that this author’s next book will be even better than this one: she certainly knows how to grab the readers’ attention and keep it! (Characterization and plotting still need a fair bit of work, but I am rating this four out of five well-deserved stars for great story-telling. She just needs to get out of her own way and do what she does very well: tell a gripping story. I highly recommend this one for sheer entertainment value.
My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Triggers: Suicide Ideation; descriptions of extreme violence; infidelity
View all my reviews