Title: The Undoing by Averil Dean
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
On a bitter January evening, three people are found murdered in the isolated Blackbird hotel.
Best friends since childhood, Eric, Rory and Celia have always been inseparable. Together they’ve coped with broken homes and damaged families, clinging to each other as they’ve navigated their tenuous lives. Their bond is potent and passionate—and its intensity can be volatile.
When the trio decides to follow Celia’s dream of buying and renovating the Blackbird, a dilapidated hotel that sits on the perilous cliffs of Jawbone Ridge, new jealousies arise and long-held suspicions start to unravel their relationship. Soon they find themselves pushed to the breaking point, where trust becomes doubt, longing becomes obsession, and someone will commit the ultimate betrayal.
An unflinching story of ambition, desire and envy, The Undoing traces the events leading to that fateful night, revealing the intimate connections, dark secrets and terrible lies that wove them together—and tore them apart.
With an unusual premise and a somewhat taboo relationship, The Undoing by Averil Dean is an engrossing psychological thriller. Told from multiple points of view, the novel begins in the present then works its way backward in time only to circle back to the shocking events that occurred at the story’s beginning.
Celia Dark, Rory McFarlane and Eric Dillon are childhood friends whose relationship took a rather unorthodox turn in their late teens. As adults, they purchased then began renovating the Blackbird Hotel, a decrepit and ramshackle part of local history. Just as they are on the verge of realizing Celia’s dream of re-opening the hotel as a bed and breakfast, a tempestuous and heated confrontation culminates in a stunning murder/suicide. What transpired between them has remained a mystery for five long years, but when their friend Kate Vaughn re-opens the hotel, the shocking truth about what happened that day will eventually be revealed.
Celia, Rory and Eric have very different personalities and their relationship is quite unconventional. A bit of an eccentric, Celia is a free-spirit who does her own thing. She does not care what other people think of her but she still manages to captivate and charm anyone who crosses her path. She is rather laidback, content to go with the flow and avoids confrontation. Rory is Celia’s stepbrother and he is quite protective of her. He is gregarious, fearless and always up for an adventure. Growing up with an abusive father, Eric is somewhat troubled with deep seated insecurities.. Although he has been stable for several years now, in the weeks leading up to their deaths, he is slowly beginning to unravel.
Secondary characters Kate Vaughn and Julian Moss are also prominent players in the unfolding drama. Kate is a local whose friendship with Celia spans several years. Julian is an Olympic bronze medal skier who is much older than everyone else. He also has a hint of a dark past but it is his obsessive fascination with Celia that takes a somewhat sinister turn when she rebuffs his advances. His manipulations sow the seeds of mistrust but he pays a heavy price for his actions.
The narrative is interesting but becomes a little convoluted as the story progresses. Beginning in 2014 with the re-opening of the Blackbird Hotel, the novel then moves back in time. Some of the shifts are just a day or two, while others span several years. The jumps in years are easy enough to follow but the “day before” flashbacks are a little confusing. Each of the chapters are from a different time period and present key information and insight about the various characters. Some of these chapters end abruptly and feel incomplete as the story then switches to another stretch of time and/or characters’ perspective.
The Undoing by Averil Dean is a riveting and suspenseful thriller with plenty of startling twists and turns. Secrets, jealousy and obsession are slowly revealed as the novel wends its way to a rather shocking and completely unexpected conclusion.