Published by Rare Bird Books
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal
Expected Publication: June 2019
** I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
When Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland, her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder. Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.
Fast-forward twenty-two years. Wyatt is a well-adjusted young man with an affinity towards the Middle East and a fear of heights. While working on his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death, which occurred twenty-five years ago. For reasons he can’t explain, he grows obsessed with Siwar and spends months investigating her death, which police at the time erroneously ruled as suicide.
This is one of those books that gives me mixed feelings. From the perspective of creativity, I thought it was fantastic. I have never read another thriller that combined Middle Eastern culture, paranormal activity, and a futuristic society before. The entire narrative engaged me from Siwar’s childhood, to her awakening in Wyatt’s childhood body, and the eventual investigation that ensues. This made the 280 pages a fairly quick read for me (minus life getting in the way).
That being said, I didn’t necessarily love Siwar or Wyatt. One thing they seemed to have in common was their selfishness. Siwar inhabits Wyatt’s body, but drives him to alcoholism in order to becomes sentient in his consciousness. On top of that, her judgements of the women around her also made her as close-minded and hypocritical as the people she proclaimed to hate. Meanwhile, Wyatt’s single-minded obsession with Siwar’s murder mystery makes him an incredibly crass character in the way he treated everyone around him including his girlfriend Hoda. He treats them with the expectation that they’re all supposed to fall in line around him. Also, why was the entirety of Siwar’s family and friends okay with this random boyfriend coming in and probing????
They both have difficult personalities in different ways. I wanted to see growth or a redeeming quality in them, but I don’t know that I ever got that. I get that Siwar wanted to find her killer, but some of her comments about other women and about being in the body of a speech delayed toddler really rubbed me the wrong way.
That being said, some of the characters I really did enjoy were the mothers – Krista and Ibtissam. Krista’s early struggles with motherhood and marriage made her an incredibly interesting character and I loved watching her grow while getting to learn a bit more about her life. The same goes for Ibtissam. I loved seeing these women in their respective environments and seeing how they coped with family. This wasn’t necessarily a huge element of the story, but it was really well done.
Another thing I enjoyed was the plot twist. I’m glad that Tynes made the murderer a character that we knew and actually cared about as opposed to pulling something out of the blue. The end did feel a little rushed though and could have been tied in better if we had a passage concerning why that last night in Amman ended the way it did. I would also have wanted to see how things ended with Hoda considering all the tension and doubts.
All in all, this was a fast and engaging read. The main characters could have been a bit better developed and multi-dimensional, but the plot was well done and plot twist was well-thought out. There were a few misspellings and pronoun errors, but I expect that this will all be fixed prior to publishing.