Review: Rahkel Williams discovers the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of her beloved uncle in Searchable Whereabouts, a debut thriller by Tinisha Nicole Johnson.
Rahkel is a nurse who does a little bookkeeping for her uncle on the side. She's had a tough run lately, recovering from divorce and substance abuse. But she's convinced she's on the right track in life. One day she comes across some unusual entries in her uncle's accounts and asks him about them. He waves them off as being routine business matters, but several days later he's found dead, badly burned in a car accident. Convinced that her uncle was murdered, Rahkel embarks on a personal investigation to uncover the truth.
The formulaic plot of Searchable Whereabouts is brightened by the character of Rahkel Williams. She's not a typical heroine and has plenty of weaknesses to balance her strengths. Although the book's resolution is foreshadowed early and is not unexpected when it happens, there is a fair amount of misdirection along the way. The suspense in the story increases when Rahkel becomes a target herself, though it's never quite clear what she knows that makes her a threat. One thing that doesn't work to the story's advantage is that it takes place over the course of 7 months or so (not including the 8 months that pass prior to the final chapter which reads more like an epilogue); a much tighter time frame would have helped maintain a higher tension level.
There are a number of stylistic and syntactic problems with Searchable Whereabouts. There is no uniform voice to the story. The narrative abruptly shifts from formal to informal and back again for no obvious literary reason. The dialog is mostly conversational but often doesn't sound natural, especially in the context of the story. And somewhat inexplicably, towards the end of the book there are a couple of chapters from a different character's point of view; it's unnecessary and confusing. Finally, the book could have benefited greatly from a critical eye towards editing. Sentence structure is frequently awkward and commas are used far too often, disrupting the flow of the text and making the story seem choppy and uneven.
Searchable Whereabouts is a moderately successful first novel, but the reader needs to overlook some of its shortcomings to appreciate the story being told.
Acknowledgment: Tinisha Nicole Johnson provided a copy of Searchable Whereabouts for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Searchable Whereabouts:
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Searchable Whereabouts by Tinisha Nichole Johnson
Publisher: Xpress Yourself
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $16.95