Twenty years after a high school clique was involved in an incident that led to the gruesome death of one of their members, a series of mysterious deaths — suicide, accident or otherwise — threatens to reduce their circle to zero. One thing is clear: Someone knows.
Allie Garvey was the odd one out in the group. At 15, her sister died of cystic fibrosis and her mother was depressed. She wasn’t pretty like Sasha Barrow, athletic like David Hybrinski or even as rich as Julian Browne. Allie was linked to the popular kids by a secret. After Allie twisted her ankle while running, Allie happens upon Sasha then Julian and David, innocuously fiddling with something under a tree. It was a .38 revolver. By all rights, a gun incites fear. How could it not? For Allie, who was still grieving the premature death of her sister, it did. With Julian and Sasha — two privileged teens — it was an object that elicited excitement. For them, it was a toy. When a new kid, Kyle Gallagher, moves to this upscale Philadelphia suburb, the clique decides to play a game of Russian Roulette using their newfound toy. It was supposed to be a prank — the gun wasn’t supposed to be loaded — but it goes horribly wrong. Two decades later, Allie Garvey returns to her childhood home to mourn the death of a childhood friend and unearth the truth of what really happened that horrific night so long ago. In her investigations of the past, she uncovers a gut-wrenching secret. A secret that could jeopardize her own life.
Lisa Scottoline’s “Someone Knows” is split into two parts. The first half is set in the 1990s and the second is in present-day. For close to 200 hundred pages, the readers are immersed in the minds of five 15-year-olds. While I find the idea of kids doing bad things shockingly delicious, the juvenile tone and their weighty issues don’t quite align. On one hand, each teenager is dealing with something heavy, from child molestation to a philandering father. The rotating perspectives functions to add depth to each character. Still, the issues are interspersed with stereotypical generalizations. For example, Allie Garvey claims she’s different because she doesn’t fit with any of the “cliques” like “pretty princesses, the field-hockey jocks, the fast girls who smoked, the Goths, druggies, mathletes, or Ecology-Club hippies.” It’s a superficial insight that’s more apt for a young-adult novel than a dark thriller.
In spite of that, it was hard to abandon “Someone Knows.” It was like watching a car-crash in action. You know that it would end terribly, yet you still can’t peel your eyes away. I was gripping the edges of the novel, hoping that all the characters would be OK yet knowing they won’t.
The second half forgoes the wonderful slow-tension that the first built up. The readers are still offered alternating perspectives, but it relies heavily on the point-of-view of a new character, Larry Rucci, Allie’s husband. Unfortunately, the new perspective squeezes unnecessary background information that wasn’t relevant to the first half. Once again, the readers are reintroduced to another internal conflict and backstory at the expense of the plot. The effect results in a rushed and dramatic ending. Instead of dropping my mouth open in astonishment, I’m left wondering if I just watched a Lifetime move special.
If you’re looking to read a cheap thriller on your next domestic flight, Lisa Scottoline’s “Someone Knows” includes all the typical tropes: suspense, murder, marital problems and twists. If you’re seeking an intricate mystery that blows your mind weeks after, look elsewhere.