NEVER TELL – Alafair Burke

“As an investigator, Ellie firmly believed she was best at her job when she could live inside the heads of her victims.  That kind of empathy hadn’t been as important to her when she was working property cases and vice busts….she knew that some little part of her would always be able to imagine what the final moments of each of those lost lives had been like for the victim.”  Ellie Hatcher was a homicide detective in Manhattan.  Julia Wildmire was a sixteen year-old high school student at one of the most exclusive and expensive schools in one of the most exclusive and expensive neighborhoods on the island.  Julia had everything money could buy.  Julia killed herself.

Getting inside Julia’s head would be a bit more difficult for Ellie who had no frame of reference when trying to imagine the life of a teenager who had her own apartment on the top floor of her parents townhouse, a place rarely visited by either.  Ellie could easily imagine the trouble a young girl could get into when she had plenty of money and no one to keep the predators away.

Julia’s laboriously crafted suicide note is found on her bed.  Julia describes her life and sums it up by writing “And that is why I have decided to kill myself.”  Ellie is convinced by the note that Julia is a suicide.  Her partner, J. J. Rogan, is not.  Neither is Julia’s mother.  Katherine Whitmire knows her daughter is a murder victim.

NEVER TELL is, on one hand, a familiar story of life in the United States.  Middle class affluence is built on two incomes meaning the requisite two children become the responsibility of people who are paid to raise someone’s children other than their own.  Teenagers have a lot of spending money for which they do not have to account.  Many parents believe that they and their teenage children should be friends.  They abdicate their responsibilities of guiding and guarding their children in favor of being the cool parents which generally means the parents prefer not to fight the ongoing battles in the seemingly never ending war to get them to adulthood safely and with values.

Children are mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by the people charged with keeping them safe.  In nearly every case, there is another adult in the home who allows it to happen.  The author takes the familiar trajectory of the story by suggesting that while mental health experts agree that forgiving the abuser is a step toward emotional health, it is necessary for the victim to forgive the enabler as well.  I’ve not yet digested that piece of advice.  What excuse can they have that excuses their complicity?

NEVER TELL was one I read straight through.  It is complex, it deals with the darkest side of human nature, and it is absolutely compelling.  It is a tightly paced police procedural, it engages the reader, and, when the book is finished it asks us to think about what we might have enabled someone to do.

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