Empty Coffin: Envy by Gregg Olsen

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Empty Coffin: Envy by Gregg Olsen

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: An original, dark, crime thriller, with an intriguing supernatural edge to it. Has a vivid setting and fascinating premise, though a confusing conclusion left me unsatisfied.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Splinter
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1402789571

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A small town is stunned by the death of a young girl, Katelyn, and although the death is attributed to an accident, there are some who believe that suicide and homicide shouldn't be ruled out just yet. Although twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan weren't close to the girl at the time of her death, they used to be good friends and a combination of guilt and curiosity leads them to investigate the death and its true cause. They may just be teenagers, but combine the fact that they have a father who is a true-crime author, with the mysterious supernatural abilities they share, the twins are more than well-equipped to discover the truth behind the death; however, they find themselves digging up more than they bargained for when tragic history and revelations from the past begin to reveal themselves.

I am a sucker for powers and supernatural abilities, and the twins' abilities, though confusing at first, proved to be intriguing and well-developed. They appear to be able to sense memories and emotions when they touch certain items, which is very convenient when it comes to investigating crimes. Even more interestingly, they are also able to receive rather cryptic messages from the dead. This added an extra edge to the investigation process, making it more original and engaging. Their abilities are handled subtly, which lends an extra sense of mystery to the story.

The setting and the characters are brought to life with great vividness and with hidden depths and complexity, hinting at the fact that the story is more than just a run of the mill crime thriller. However, I did feel that the two main protagonists, the twins Hayley and Taylor, felt rather generic and lacked distinctive voices, although the author does manage to ensure that they don't become too interchangeable as twin sisters, by creating conflict between the pair over a boy. The secondary characters that populate the town are actually more interesting than the twins, though the fact that the author decided to incorporate such a large cast of characters meant that there was a lack of any significant character development. The dialogue is inconsistent; at times it can be bland, but there are also flashes of sharp, intelligent wit.

Overall, I was left feeling rather perplexed at the conclusion of the novel. I can appreciate that the author is trying to establish storylines and hints for an overarching storyline for the series, but combine a very large cast of characters, with a rapidly transitioning narrative and multiple plotlines, and what we're left with is a book that lacks a satisfactory central story. The main storyline of the twins' informal investigation of the cause of Katelyn's death is sidelined at times by the mystery behind the supernatural abilities the twins appear to share, as well as the story of a stubborn journalist searching for a game-changing story. There is limited emphasis on the actual process of investigating the case and the rather rushed climax reveals an unexpected, and not particularly believable, aspect to Katelyn's death; considering that the focal point of the story is established as an investigation into the death, a deeper, more complex analysis into the events leading up to it would've been nice. The theme of cyberbullying is expressed, but not explored in real depth, which is a shame as I think that it had a lot of potential and could have been thought-provoking.

Perhaps the main reason that I feel so critical of the book is that it does not read like a teen/YA novel, despite it being marketed as one. A lot of the main characters may be teens, but the tone of the novel feels awkward, as if the author is forcibly trying to aim the novel at a teenage reader, but with limited success. Nonetheless, with a lot of intriguing storylines having been established here, I am still curious as to see where sequels will take the series.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Bloodchild by Tim Bowler is a thriller that also has some supernatural aspects to it, and comes recommended by TheBookbag. You might also appreciate Victim Six by Gregg Olsen and The Chalice Project (Island Fiction) by Lisa Allen-Agostini.

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Buy Empty Coffin: Envy by Gregg Olsen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Empty Coffin: Envy by Gregg Olsen at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Empty Coffin: Envy by Gregg Olsen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Empty Coffin: Envy by Gregg Olsen at Amazon.com.


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