Don’t Believe It: a story with many issues, but yes, I still kept going. This is why

Don't Believe it book review

What is this about?: I wish I could articulate exactly what this book is about: is it about how a documentary is made? Is it about Sidney’s investigation into who really killed Julian? Unfortunately, it seems to be about both, and then throws in some angst about a workplace romance of all things.

What else is this about?: Well, I kept going with this thing, so something must’ve kept me reading. I supposed somewhere in the mish-mash of all these things this book was trying to cover badly, was an interesting mystery and and ending (only) that did impress for how ballsy it is.


From acclaimed author Charlie Donlea comes a twisting, impossible-to-put-down novel of suspense in which a filmmaker helps clear a woman convicted of murder—only to find she may be a pawn in a sinister game.

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history—a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.

As Sidney begins researching, she uncovers startling evidence, additional suspects, and timeline issues that were all overlooked during the original investigation. Before the series even finishes filming, public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. But as the show surges towards its final episodes, Sidney receives a letter saying that she got it badly, terribly wrong.

Sidney has just convinced the world that Grace is innocent. Now she wonders if she has helped to free a ruthless killer. Delving into Grace’s past, she peels away layer after layer of deception. But as Sidney edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career . . . even her life.

In case you came straight to my review and missed the blurb up top, Don’t Believe It wants to cover many storylines, many bases and doesn’t really do anything justice. For a story billed as a true-crime documentary that sets someone free (and which made me pick it up), throwing in Sidney angsting about having an affair with her boss, and what people will think if they found out blah blah blah was just so out of place.

What does it matter when it has no bearing on Sidney’s story? Her angsting went nowhere, and that was time that could’ve been spent on the documentary, on fleshing out bits and pieces of the mystery. 

This book really didn’t know what it should focus on. Sidney is working on the documentary, The Girl of Sugar Beach, and the story takes us through that process, through interviewing people and finding parts of the investigation that did a disservice to Grace — and that was geuinely interesting. It’s what made me pick this up in the first place — true crime and a mystery to solve? Yes please!

But these bouts of interesting were interspersed between bits of waffle about Sidney’s past, her ex-romance with her boss and incessant whining about the network’s Big-Name Anchor person with a voice like a bear (or something) that is a big thorn in Sydney’s side but ultimately has no purpose in Sidney’s story.


This is a character that is randomly introduced in the middle of the story about Grace and her ordeal, and then readers have to follow him bitching about everything he can, as well as the horrible nurses he’s saddled with as he recovers from losing his leg to cancer. For real.

We need to follow his physio, his making friends with the physiotherapist and bitching and more bitching until he gets his way, gets some old files and we realise just how he’s involved in the story. I get that the author wanted to pace this with the documentary, to bring the character in at the right time, it basically forces readers to tread water and for me, be bored. Alot. There might’ve been skimming at these chapters.

Grace Seabold

For much of the book, Grace is an enigma — her story is the story of the murder of Julian, her boyfriend, and as much as we get to know her through Sidney’s interviews with her friends and her family.

There comes a point when we we get to hear from Grace, but it’s far too late in the book when everything happens too fast.

I will say though that there are some red herrings thrown up, and an ending that was impressive, and brave for the choices the author makes. 

However, there’s alot here that frustrated me, and left me confused as to why I was reading these things. Do I regret reading this? No. But I will think long and hard before picking up another book by this author.


  • Hmm… now I can’t decide whether to start the book or not. Thank you for the candid review. I found your blog from a comment you left on Shooting Stars’ winter bucket list post. I’m glad I followed the link.


    • Verushka says:

      I hear you Christie, I was torn about this author after their first book. I’m glad I read this one, but I will admit I had to come around to understanding the ending for what it was not saying, as much as what it was.

  • Sam@wlabb says:

    “Brave choice” sounds like something that would frustrate me. I just finished a book, where the author’s bold choice destroyed me. Glad you don’t regret reading it, though.

    • Verushka says:

      I didn’t like the ending straightaway, but I guess I came around to appreciating it’s difference to other thrillers and what the author was trying to do.

  • Jen Mullen says:

    Uh oh. Don’t think this would work for me.

    • Verushka says:

      I don’t think it’ll appeal to everyone, no. I admit I had to take a moment to understand the ending and the choice the author made, but in the end, it won me over.

  • I’ve never seen a premise like that before, so that’s something. It’s too bad it tried to take on so much and didn’t really accomplish any of the things though. Still, at least it had a good ending!

    • Verushka says:

      Usually just when the ending is the only thing standing out for me, it means I am vastly irritated with a book, but I genuinely liked this one, and enough of the rest to make this worth my time.

  • Kelly says:

    This sounds like part genius part mess sadly. I like the premise but why oh why does there need to be the added element of a romance? It seems like a really peculiar choice in a narrative that already has so much going on. It’s difficult to connect to a character through the voices of others, perhaps if Grace had been given a voice earlier on in the storyline, this may have been a little more bearable. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it in the end Verushka, I can imagine this wasn’t an easy read. Brilliant review!

    • Verushka says:

      It was definitely frustrating in parts, with the addition of bits like the romance and the “glass ceiling” bit. The rhythm of the writing and certain elements (without getting too spoilery) were just enough to keep me going to the end — and it is the end that made this book for me, I admit (and I usually never say that)

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