Here are three reasons not to read my review of this book: 1. I didn't finish it, 2. it's the third book in a trilogy and I didn't read the first or second books, and 3. I don't like thrillers in which a deranged killer is stalking the book's characters.
So. This was a good book! The characters were interesting, and more happened to them than the mystery story of the main plot. The only reason I am not going to finish this book is that after reading two thirds of the novel, I still don't know who many of the people in it are. One name, Andrew Decker, keeps coming up but we haven't met him and nobody in the book seems to know who he is. I certainly don't, but I get the impression that if I had read the first two books I would be riveted. I am giving up on this one because my confusion to enjoyment ratio isn't right, but I think if I were following this series I would be ripping through to the end. So: my bad. But, in my defence, I have done this before (picked up one volume of a serial mystery) and loved the book. Also, the front cover didn't indicate that this book couldn't be read without having already read the previous volumes: it didn't even indicate it was part of a series.
There were some quirks in the prose that drove me nuts and should have been combed out by its editor. The most jarring one for me was how Atkinson included retorts from absent characters in the text:
"Six o'clock," Nurse Fuzzy said. ("My name's actually Marian.")
For some reason they had their wires crossed and thought Reggie was Ms MacDonald's daughter. ("Has your mother left you alone in the house?")
He had been engaged to Josie for over two years before they married so he had no personal evidence that a long courtship was the foundation of a long marriage. ("Oh, I think we were married long enough," Josie said.)
These are EVERYWHERE and they drove me up the wall. Not once did they add something the reader hadn't already inferred from what was written before. I felt like Atkinson didn't trust her characters to speak for themselves, and she had to throw in conversational evidence that they were right. The effect was to make her characters sound uncertain, because it seemed like when one had a thought, he had to go back in his head to tell us why he thought that. It would have been a great device to show us the nervous, obsessive-compulsive interior landscape of one character, but she uses it for every character on almost every page. A few pages in, it was obviously just a crutch.
I'm not sure it I liked this book enough to go back and start with the first book so that I can read it properly. But if it had been able to stand alone apart from the other books in the series, I think I would have enjoyed it.