Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Learning to Swim

Summary: When she witnesses a small child tumbling from a ferry into Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. Harrowing moments later, she bobs to the surface, pulling a terrified little boy with her. As the ferry disappears into the distance, she begins a bone-chilling swim nearly a mile to shore with a tiny passenger on her back.

Surprisingly, he speaks only French. He’ll acknowledge that his name is Paul; otherwise, he’s resolutely mute.

Troy assumes that Paul’s frantic parents will be in touch with the police or the press. But what follows is a shocking and deafening silence. And Troy, a freelance writer, finds herself as fiercely determined to protect Paul as she is to find out what happened to him. What she uncovers will take her into a world of wealth and privilege and heedless self-indulgence—a world in which the murder of a child is not unthinkable. She’ll need skill and courage to survive and protect her charge and herself.

Sara J. Henry’s powerful and compelling Learning to Swim will move and disturb readers right up to its shattering conclusion. -- Crown

How could I not want to read LEARNING TO SWIM by Sara J. Henry after a description like that? The entire premise for the book sounded so good, and those last few words ("move and disturb readers right up to its shattering conclusion") absolutely put me over the edge. This book sounded like one that I couldn't afford to miss.

I have to say that I really enjoyed LEARNING TO SWIM and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. It was an action-packed mystery that kept me guessing all the way to the end. In fact when I realized that there weren't many pages left in the story and I had no idea how it was going to end, I began questioning how the author was going to wrap up the story so quickly. Needless to say, she did while also managing to pack a pretty powerful punch! And when that "shattering conclusion" finally occurred, I admit that I was kind of blown away -- my jaw might have even dropped and I quite possible let out a little gasp! Maybe some readers are more astute than I am, but I didn't see this coming one little bit!

I found LEARNING TO SWIM to be a terrific mystery. It was full of action, suspense, and surprises -- really, everything I look for in a good mystery book. However, I also thought this book had some additional strong qualities. For example, I really liked the character of Troy and thought she was developed fairly well for a character in this genre. Troy was extremely likable, but she was also rather complex and multi-dimensional (and maybe even a bit of a mess.) She has commitment/relationship problems with men and she was kind of estranged from most of her family; however, she immediately bonded with Paul, the little boy that she rescued, and felt almost a maternal instinct towards him.

This might sound strange, but I was actually surprised by how much LEARNING TO SWIM kept me guessing. In some mystery books (namely cozies), I don't spend much time trying to solve the crime. I just sit back and enjoy the story. Well in the case of LEARNING TO SWIM, I definitely enjoyed the story, but I didn't find myself sitting back too often. Rather, I was more on the edge of my seat and took a much more active approach to figuring out the crime. There were characters that I really wasn't sure whether Troy should trust, and I found myself both wanting to restrain her as well as hit her upside the head. For whatever reason (and it probably is a credit to the author), I felt as if I were part of this story.

While I certainly enjoyed the ride that LEARNING TO SWIM took me on, I have to mention that there were a few parts of the story where I felt as if I had to suspend reality. For example, right off the bat, I had some issues with why Troy kept the child rather than turning him over to the authorities. Of course, if she had done that, there wouldn't have been a story, but it seemed a little odd that she just took the little boy home with her. I guess I understand that Troy was worried about what would happen to him if she let him go, but it was still a little leap for me. To give the author credit, she did address Troy's thought process and behavior in the next chapter, and she convinced me enough that I didn't dwell on it longer than a minute or two.

LEARNING TO SWIM is Sara J. Henry's debut novel, and I think it's a fabulous start. I couldn't put this book down because it was just so intense -- from the crime, to the characters, to the mystery, to the twists! I actually can't wait for another one of her books, and I'm even hoping to see the character of Troy again. At the end of LEARNING TO SWIM, the situation with Troy's personal life was left open-ended enough that it's entirely possible for her to return to solve another mystery!

I highly recommend LEARNING TO SWIM to fans of mysteries/thrillers as well as fans of women's fiction.

Mystery Mondays is a "somewhat" regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I hope to read this one soon. Two members of my book club read it and they raved over it. I think they talked about it more than the book we were there to discuss. Great premier of Mystery Mondays!

Swapna said...

I really enjoyed this one as well, and I love the idea of a dedicated day to review mysteries. Great review!

Sara J. Henry said...

What a great review! Thanks for doing such a thoughtful read.

I understand your issues about Troy's early actions, but I think it helps to factor in her incredible fatigue after a long bone-chilling swim mixed with the stress of what she discovered - I've found that sometimes when you're exhausted beyond the point of exhaustion, your brain doesn't work particularly clearly.

Yes, Troy will be back - I'm finishing up the sequel right now!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love books that keep me on the edge of my seat! This sounds like a good one!

Anonymous said...

I'd seen the title of this one but hadn't seen a description until your great review. I'll have to add this to my list right away. Interesting point the author makes here in the comments, will help me past the parts you had trouble with. Can't wait to read this one. Hurray, for Mystery Mondays!

LisaMM said...

Wow, sounds great and now I'm dying to know what happens!!

Love the idea of Mystery Mondays!

Just Mom said...

Oooh - I can't wait to read this after that review! I remember seeing the description on Goodreads and being intrigued , now I really want it!