Hi friends! Remember when I posted a list of five books that I wanted to read this year on Tuesday? Well, by Wednesday afternoon I had already read two of them, so I think I am doing fairly decent. The second of those two books was this one, Thicker Than Water, and I enjoyed it so much I decided this would be a great book to pick to write my first ever review on (yeah, I’ve actually never written a review before, I never claimed to be good at this).
Official summary from goodreads:
On his own.
Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.
Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years.
The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her best friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers.
Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden…
I should start out by saying that this book had me feeling a lot of emotions from the very beginning. Reading about Thomas at his mother’s funeral almost made me cry, which is pretty rare because a) normally takes me a good while to get attached to characters (sometimes even several rereads) and b) I don’t normally cry which reading books. With that out in the open, lets jump into an actual review, shall we?
Let’s start by talking about the elements I really loved:
Charlotte having to deal with her family’s old fashioned ideals
“Char’s family might want her to end up barefoot and pregnant, but she’s tough as nails.”
Throughout the novel, Charlotte has to put up with her family treating her like she is a weak and delicate female who can’t do anything for herself despite the fact that she has been taught how to fight and defend herself by half of her family members and in general is a very responsible girl who can (and does) handle a lot without backing down. She is also treated unfairly, a good example of this is when her parents and grandmother make her wash all the dishes from a ten person dinner by herself right after she got injured while her three perfectly capable brothers go and watch TV. Charlotte takes this and all of their other prejudices in stride, while making it very clear through little acts of defiance that she sees how this treatment is unfair and she wants to change it. I loved reading about all the little details she would add to her outfits in order to make her grandmother irritated. All in all, I really liked seeing how Charlotte handled these interactions and enjoyed having this a sort of side motif throughout the novel.
The murder mystery
Now, this is probably going to seem really stupid, but I had no idea this was a murder mystery. I had no idea what it was, I saw that it was by Brigid Kemmerer and that was enough for me to order it immediately. I was very pleasantly surprised, however. The mystery was so good, it had me hanging onto every word to the point where I read this in four hours because I could not put it down without finding out what had happened. I don’t know what else I can really say on this topic without spoiling anything, so I’ll stop here, just know that I really enjoyed the mystery.
The discussion of grief and the guilt that sometimes accompanies it
“She deserved a better son. A better son. She deserved a better son. The problem is that I agree. A better son would have been able to stop it.”
I luckily have not gone through the process of losing a close family member, but I have watched other members of my family mourn (does that make any sense? I hope it does lmao, I don’t really want to tell my entire life story on the internet so) and the way Thomas acted in this book clearly mirrored the actions and feelings I saw in them. All of the lines about how his mother deserved a better son (see above quote and share in my pain) hurt my heart, I honestly started tearing up. It was also very interesting to see the contrast Kemmerer gave between Tom and Stan, between the man who lost his wife after ten days and the boy who lost his mother after eighteen years, to see how they both handled the situation and how they had to deal with each others presences afterwards, despite the fact that they had lost their one connection.
The small town setting actually being done in an accurate manner
“Danny still lives at home. Ben and Matt still come every Saturday for dinner. Small town living. You know.”
Okay, so this may just be me being overly picky, but I feel like most of the time small town settings are not done in a way that truly represents real small towns, at least not the one I live in. This novel did accurately portray one, however, and it did a very good job of it. From throwing in mentions about how the big grocery store is about a half an hour away, to mentioning that there are sections of the area where people do not have neighbors for miles, to the fact that there were areas where you can just cut through the woods and avoid major roads, it just all felt very real and honestly described a situation pretty similar to the one I grew up in. I also really really loved the Saturday night dinner thing where all of Charlotte’s siblings and their kids came to dinner, just because my family does Sunday night dinners every week and I haven’t been getting to go to them (college, man, it ruins things) so it made me feel super nostalgic and homesick
even though I was literally in my bedroom at home when I read this and when I wrote this review.
Now, I guess we should get into the two details I wasn’t the biggest fan of (aka the reasons this wasn’t a five star read for me):
The somewhat unexplained paranormal element
Once again, this may seem really stupid, but I had no idea this book had a paranormal element. I honest to god had no idea what this book was about, I was just coming along for the ride and where ever said ride took me. Therefore, just like the fact that this book was a murder mystery, the paranormal aspect took me by surprise. I know Kemmerer can do paranormal, her Elementals series is one of my favorites of all times (how many times have I said that this week? If I had a dollar for every time I have I might be able to pay for my parking permit at school) and it is very well done for the most part. The point of all that rambling is that Kemmerer can create great, well developed and well explained paranormal worlds. This one, however, wasn’t explained nearly enough. It kind of just got thrown in towards the end with no explanation and left me feeling confused and like I kind of just had to accept what I was given without question or any added information.
The relationship between Charlotte and Thomas
I know Kemmerer’s books, they always have romance. She really enjoys having characters get together at the very very end of novels and then leaving it there (I’m side eyeing you there, Sacrifice), so I was not really suprised when I romance started up in this one. That said, in all of the other Kemmerer novels I’ve read, I understood the couple getting together and appreciated it, but this one seemed odd and forced. I may be the only one that feels this way, but I just felt like the romance was unnecessary and almost took away from the plot somehow. Plus, it also just seemed like Charlotte and Thomas did not connect on a personal level in a genuine situation where one of them was not being controlled by an outside actor.