By Jacque Gage
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Disclaimer No. 1: I am related to the author of the book I’m about to review. The author is my first cousin by marriage. Disclaimer No. 2: Though related, I have never met the author. Disclaimer No. 3: I began this process with an admitted bias against self-published works.
“Not What She Seems,” by Victorine Lieske, was originally self-published for the Kindle through Amazon.com. Through family, I had heard about this book being published, but promptly put it out of my mind both because of my admitted bias against self-published works, and the fact I didn’t own a Kindle.
Just recently, however, I found out this book has been on the New York Times best-seller list in the e-book category for several weeks, and has been published in a print version. That made me think perhaps there was something to this book after all.
So, when the copy ordered for the library hadn’t come in by my vacation last week, I broke down and downloaded it to a Kindle app on my iPad. The Joplin Public Library has downloadable e-books (but not for Kindles) through its catalog. Just do a search for “Overdrive.”
“Not What She Seems” is just that -- not what it seems. I would have to classify it as a cozy murder mystery romance filled with characters that were all not what they seemed.
Though the book is a predictable, sometimes stretch-of-the-imagination story, it was one that I enjoyed for the take-me-away-from-everything aspect.
Billionaire Steven Ashton wants to avoid people wishing to use him only for his money, and escapes to a small Nebraskan town using an alias. Recognized by a small-time thief, a plot is set in motion for Ashton to be robbed of hundreds of thousands of his billions. Emily, the thief’s less-than-willing accomplice, is burdened by her own shadowy past and feels compelled to agree to the plan.
Although Emily agrees to try to bilk Ashton out of the money, her real desire in life is to try to get away from Richard, the thief, who whisked her away from her hometown where she would have faced charges for murdering her husband.
The plot thickens as Ashton begins to fall for Emily and ends up taking her back to her hometown to clear her name in her husband’s death. (OK, so this part calls for a stretch of the imagination that he would fall for her so quickly, but remember, I’m reading it to get away from it all.)
No one in the hometown turns out to be what or whom we are led to believe they are. There are twists and red herrings throughout the book, and I did not figure it out until the end.
The book’s downfall, however, is its ending. The last few pages of the book have details that don’t seem to fit and don’t seem to matter. I even went back and reread the last chapter several times to see what I’d missed and why some things didn’t make sense. The murder is solved, everything is wrapped up rather neatly, and then the book ends. Period. It just stops. I found that dissatisfying and irritating.
A quick read that is free from explicit language or sex, “Not What She Seems” is available in Kindle format from Amazon for 99 cents. A print version from Amazon will cost you $14.95. Or, once it arrives at Joplin Public Library, you can enjoy it for free.
Jacque Gage is the director of the Joplin Public Library.