Over winter break I was given a fair amount of books being the avid reader I am. One addition to my collection includes The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. The Cousins is a mystery thriller surrounding the mystery of the Story family and all the secrets they have.
When it comes to a good thriller and mystery, it is key to have a mystery to entice readers to want to find the answer. The Cousins follows three cousins belonging to the Story family. Their parents were once heirs and heiress to their grandmother’s fortune until they mysteriously got cut off. Having not contacted them for years, seemingly out of nowhere Milly, Jonah and Aubrey get a letter signed by their grandmother asking them to work at the resort she owns for the summer. The plot is rather intriguing, and captures audiences with the book description alone.
The characters in the book have complex traits due to the big family mystery. Milly has a mother who pushes people away and thus takes on a prickly and sarcastic persona. Aubrey idolized her father until she became old enough to realize he was actually a very toxic force in her life. And Jonah…well, let’s just say Jonah has more to him than you originally think. But although they should in turn be complex characters, you can read them all very easily. At times things that were supposed to be major plot moments felt predictable. But there were still enough things you didn’t see coming to make them enjoyable to read about.
Along with the present day characters’ perspectives, there are some chapters sprinkled in from Milly’s mother Allison’s perspective. These flashbacks raise more questions as we reach closer and closer to the events that may have started it all. Not to mention it shows us how much Allison Milly knew was different from the Allison she was. Honestly, if I were to say which character had the most depth it would be Allison. Even though we only see present day Allison once in the beginning and once in the end, there is still a noticeable difference between the two versions of the character.
Now looking at the book in general, the book is simultaneously too slow and too fast. The beginning of the book feels very repetitive and almost slow to the point where one wonders when the good stuff will start. Then when we do start getting to the mysteries, it all feels almost rushed. McManus set up the beginning too much and left the ending feeling like she was trying to stay within a word limit. I don’t know if there are such things in the world of writing, but ideally she could have beefed up some more clues rather than continually stating “we don’t know why we were disinherited”. Yes. We understand. Anyway.
While the pacing could be better, McManus is a pro with misdirection. Multiple times throughout the book McManus sets up scenarios in the reader’s mind that could explain parts of the plot, and then changes direction entirely. In my own reading, I thought I had the ending figured out and that it was a matter of time until my suspicions were proven correct. To say my theory was not even close to McManus’ ending is an understatement.
I recommend those who like a good mystery pickup not only The Cousins, but McManus’ other work as well. My personal favorite is Two Can Keep A Secret but that’s a book chat for another time. 😉 I rate this book 3 out of 5. Although I like the book and would recommend it, the pacing shaves off a lot of points from me. Leave a comment for what book you’d like me to read next.