She Lies in Wait: a mystery that wants to be more than it is


What is this about?: This is a mystery in two timelines: one the night Aurora died, and the present where her body has been found and Jonah Sheens and his team begin to investigate her murder.

What else is this about?: I would have loved for this book to have made a decision on the characters it wanted to follow. Instead, it feels like something changed half-way through this book and not for the better.


On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and the youngest of the group—Aurora Jackson—is delighted to be allowed to tag along. The evening starts like any other—they drink, they dance, they fight, they kiss. Some of them slip off into the woods in pairs, others are left jealous and heartbroken. But by morning, Aurora has disappeared. Her friends claim that she was safe the last time they saw her, right before she went to sleep. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found.

Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers—including Aurora—personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead, and all of them profoundly changed forever.

She Lies in Wait has all the hallmarks of a good mystery for me — secrets and lies, and friends held together and torn apart by a secret.

The book starts of well enough — Sheens is the focus, we learn about his past and due to some loaded statements realise quickly he has something to hide and is linked to the group of friends that went with Aurora camping.

So I got the picture of someone who was closely tied to the case, with secrets of his own and a group of friends he might know more about than he’s letting on.

However, somewhere along the line, the book diverts suddenly to the rest of his team, or rather just Hanson, his newest recruit — she’s just got out of a bad relationship and is being stalked. The point to the story? Nothing really. The point to her character — no idea. I don’t know why she was chosen to offer an alternate focus of the story on a personal level. The other two, O’Malley and Lightman, certainly don’t get this personal a focus. Readers do follow O’Malley especially on parts of the case, but even that is a slight detour. Lightman remains an engima.

And come to think of it, it’s more care than Sheens is offered, because his personal story goes from involving his mother to crushing on one of his prime suspects.

It is Hanson that begins to suspect Sheens might be hiding something to do with the case, but I still don’t understand why we needed to know that she was being stalked by a deadbeat boyfriend. And even then the connection to Sheens and the night in question? Doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like all these threads get all this focus … and they don’t go anywhere.

The tight-knit group of friends? Were kind of cliched teenagers, who drank and had sex and did drugs. Aurora’s sister Topaz used her sexuality to manipulate everyone around her, but do we know why? Nope. It’s just what she did to be the centre of attention. Do we get to know any of the adults enough to understand their actions as teenagers? Nope.

This book doesn’t know if it wants to be a story about a group of tight-knit friends and the cop trying to break them apart, or a mystery about a team of cops trying to  solve a mystery.

So why did I keep reading? A desire to know what did happen to Aurora and then I realised a book with a mystery I’ll easily forget. As I will the characters. Eh.


  • Jen Mullen says:

    I am always disappointed when the blurb sounds good and the story begins with interest only to be let down by digressions that don’t advance the plot.

    • Verushka says:

      Me too! I genuinely had such high expectations for this bc I’d read such good reviews of it… but it was such a deflating read.

  • Greg says:

    I almost bought this! And haven’t seen any reviews yet, so I’m glad I saw yours! Now I feel a little glad I didn’t grab it. Sorry to hear it was disappointing. It does sound like it couldn’t quite make up its mind what it wanted to be, story- wise.

    • Verushka says:

      Yeah, I would steer clear. I read some excellent reviews of it and I was looking forward to this so much… and yeah, it was just *such* a let down. Sighs.

  • Lark says:

    That’s too bad. This one sounds like it could have been so good.

  • This sounds like such a frustrating read. It sounds like if it had picked either direction and developed it more, it could have been a fantastic read. Putting the two directions together just sounds like it killed the story’s momentum. Great review though!

    • Verushka says:

      Thank you — and you’re exactly right — the author should have just focused on one storyline. Sighs. And this is one of those ones I really had high expectations for as well!

  • Sounds like a good premise that took some really wrong turns. The POV switch does sound really random and definitely doesn’t seem to add to the story, which is unfortunate.


    • Verushka says:

      Very wrong turns — I was geuinely lost as to what the author was trying to do with some of the decisions in this book.

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