Echoes, by Erin Grady

>> Wednesday, April 19, 2006

book coverSee, this is one of the problems of having to wait months before books arrive here: by the time they get to me, I barely remember why I wanted to read them, so they often end up languishing unread, in the TBR. That was the case with Echoes, by Erin Grady.

When I read the review at AAR, I was all fired up to read it, because it really did sound fascinating. So I bought it and had it sent to my friend's house. It spent a couple of months there until I accumulated enough books for an M-Bag, then four more months until the M-Bag arrived, and when it got here, it just got put in the TBR and forgotten. I only remembered it when I read an interview with the author, again at AAR. And when I did, I grabbed it from the TBR immediately.

A whisper of suspicion...

Tess Carson isn't surprised when her irresponsible sister vanishes again, but when she arrives in the remote town of Mountain Bend to care for her niece, Tess realizes that there's more to the disappearance than mere flight of fancy. Her sister's boss is dead—and her sister is the prime suspect.

A hint of seduction...

Tess turns to an unlikely ally to clear her sister's name—the dead man's son. But Grant Weston is haunted by his own familial demons, making Tess wary of his true intentions—and suspicious of his connection to her sister.

A vision of fear...

And there is something else haunting Tess. Something forcing her to experience strange, terrifying hallucinations of another time and place. Now, the only way for Tess to discover the truth about her sister—and about Grant—is to confront the secret that binds them together through time itself.
After the story above, aren't you expecting me to rave about the book and lament the fact that I waited so long before reading it? Well, I can tell you I was expecting to love it when I finally picked it up, too. But I didn't. I liked it all right and even thought the idea behind the book was really intriguing, but the problem was the execution. It was just... eh, just ok. I'd rate it a B-, with extra points for the originality of the idea.

Tess Carson lives a calm, nice -if unexciting- life. She lives in New York and has a job that she doesn't hate, but doesn't love either. She dates occasionally, but hasn't found a man who calls to her. Until one evening, her ordered life is disturbed by a phone call from accross the country. The principal from the Mountain Bend, California elementary school calls because Tess' sister Tori hasn't arrived to pick up her 7-year-old daughter from the school, and since Tess is listed as the emergency contact, she needs to decide what to do.

Since if Tess doesn't do anything little Caitlin will be sent to a shelter, she immediately catches a plane to California, even though she's pretty sure Tori will have turned up by the time she gets there. After all, it's not the first time Tori behaves irresponsibly. But when Tess arrives, Tori is still missing. She disappeared right after a local rancher died in suspicious circumstances, and there's money missing from his house, so the police seem to be very interested in talking to her.

As time passes, it becomes clearer and clearer to Tess that something is wrong (the prologue lets the reader know from the very beginning that there is, indeed, something wrong), and she also gets more and more drawn into the Mountain Bend community, especially since she's becoming powerfully attracted to the son of the dead man, Grant Weston, a former Hollywood star who abandoned his career after getting embroiled in some really bad scandals.

To make things even weirder, Tess starts to experience some very disturbing flashbacks, during which she goes back to the mid 19th century, following a young woman traveling West from Ohio with her late sister's husband and his family. And what's especially creepy is that this young woman's circumstances seem to mirror Tess', and she begins to suspect there might be a warning to her in those past events which, she soon discovers, concern people who are not merely figments of her imagination, but people who really existed.

At first, I really enjoyed the story. It felt fresh and different, and both the present-day story and the one narrated through the flashbacks were interesting. But after a while, I started liking things less and less. The first to go was the 19th century story. It drove me absolutely crazy that the guy in that one was the oblivious type, who refused to believe things were as bad as the woman he loved was insisting they were and thus put her in danger. I wavered between wanting to slap him for being so willfully blind and wanting to slap her for being so wishy-washy when it came to telling the man exactly what was going on. What she did tell him should have been enough, but when it became clear he was so blind to what was going on around him, she should have been a lot more insistent in her warnings.

Soon after that, the present-day story started becoming less enjoyable, too. I began wanting to slap these people, too. Ok, they weren't as bad as the ones in the flashbacks, so I guess a good shake would have been enough, but they really frustrated me, with the way they didn't take simple steps to protect themselves when it started becoming clear that there was danger all around them.

Take Tess, for instance. It would have been bad enough if she had been naive and believed everything she was told. She isn't, she becomes suspicious at certain things that are suspicious, but instead of doing something to check out these possible falsehoods (and some of them would have been extremely easy to check), she does nothing. And Grant? Another guy who prefers not to see, not as bad as Adam (flashback guy), but enough for a few vigorous shakes.

Ok, it wasn't all bad, because what's going on is interesting and I liked the way Grady very gradually revealed everything, but it could have been so much better! And the romance wasn't particularly good, either. Grant remains a bit too shadowy and I never got the feeling I knew him, so the romance never really took off.

Even though this one was pretty disappointing, I think I still want to read Grady's new book, Whispers. It sounds as fascinating as Echoes did, and maybe the things that irritated me here are better in this one. I can hope, can't I?


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