BOOK REVIEW – Never Smile at Strangers by Jennifer Jaynes

Never Smile at Strangers

Thank you to the author and to Tracy Fenton of THE Book Club (Facebook) for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

It’s hot and sultry in the Louisiana bayou town of Trespass. Time seems to be moving extremely slowly for Haley Landry. Her father died in a tragic accident and since then her mother has withdrawn from life. Her best friend Tiffany drives her mad with her never-ending demand for attention and drama. Her boyfriend Mac isn’t even behaving like his normal dependable self. And then Tiffany disappears. One minute they’re having a fairly un-enjoyable evening out at a local bar; Haley goes to the bathroom, and when she returns, Tiffany is gone! And so follows the prolonged, torturous agony of not knowing what happened to her.

As we trudge through the unbearable heat and boredom of a small-town summer, everyone wonders what happened to the wayward teen. But the young girls of Trespass don’t seem too bothered by her disappearance. They still hitchhike at will, trusting everyone, with absolutely no regard to their safety. I did find this strange, but put it down to small-town mentality (I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but I do assume that there is a measure of security in a small town community that might not exist for those of us who are big city dwellers, and who tend to be more wary and cynical).

Jaynes develops her characters well. They’re all a little world-weary, even the younger ones, and the families are all more than a little dysfunctional. But the strong message that is relayed is that they’re all searching for something that they feel will offer them a sense of security. They’re all quite adrift for various reasons and don’t seem to have anything or anyone to depend on. Tiffany’s disappearance just adds to the overall fog of utter despair that hangs over the town.

Although the reader knows without a doubt that Tiffany has met with the worst kind of trouble, we don’t know what’s happened to her. All is revealed … without a revelation of ‘whodunnit’. Clever, clever, clever writing! We follow the perpetrator’s story throughout the book, in intermittent chapters, and I must admit I had absolutely no clue who it was until the author surprised me with her shock ‘A-ha moment’!!

How well do we ever know the people who we think we know well? This is a skilful observation of human behaviour in extreme circumstances. When you feel desperate who do you trust? Who do you turn to? Can you be sure you’ve chosen correctly?

I can highly recommend this book. It draws you in, and you won’t put it down until you’re done!

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