Tell Me You’re Sorry, by Kevin O’Brien

Short Take:  Well, this is convoluted.


In Tell Me You’re Sorry, Stephanie Coburn is a single airline pilot whose only family is her sister Rebecca, Rebecca’s husband Scott, and their two kids, CC and Ernie.  When Rebecca commits suicide, Stephanie is at first shocked, then furious when Scott remarries a mysterious woman named Halle just three months afterward.   And her world gets turned even further upside down when Scott, Halle, and both children are murdered on Thanksgiving, in an apparent robbery gone wrong.

Stephanie tries to figure out the deaths of her sister, brother-in-law, and their two children.  She slowly begins putting together the clues from her brother-in-law’s past, and finding connections to two other slain families who follow the same very specific pattern:

  • For several years, a father receives unsigned cards on Fathers Day.
  • Then the mother commits suicide (or seems to).
  • The grieving father remarries a short time later, usually within a few months.
  • Shortly after that, the father, children, and dad’s new wife are all murdered.
  • After the deaths, it’s discovered that all of the family’s money and valuables are gone.

In trying to solve the mystery of Rebecca’s death, Stephanie meets Ryan, a high school student/football star, who was living away from his family due to an estrangement with his father when his whole family was murdered.  He begins working with Stephanie long-distance to try to figure out why their families were targeted, and who the murderer is.  They are later joined by Allison, a teenage girl whose family may be next.  

To further complicate things, the bad guys know that Stephanie is on to them, which brings a next-level element of cat and mouse to the book, as they try to destroy her credibility and kill her before she finds them.  There’s also a whole side plot about a woman who’s been kidnapped and is being held prisoner throughout the story.

I’m just going to say it – I had it figured out about ⅔ of the way through.  I knew who the killer was, and why they were killing these people, and how they were getting away with it.  Usually I hate that when I’m reading a mystery.  I want to be kept in the dark, to have my head messed with, to be able to say “Oh man, how did I NOT see that coming??”  

I’ll give it a pass this time though, because knowing who the murderer was really built up the tension, in that it became a race to see if the characters would also figure it out.  There were a lot of close calls, a few narrow escapes, and several scenes that genuinely raised my heart rate.

However, there were also some things that just didn’t work for me.  There are several passages devoted to how much Stephanie misses her sister, but almost nothing about her dead niece and nephew.  There are also a couple of romances that develop, one of which is awkwardly shoved into the last few pages.  The characters aren’t especially interesting. We see a lot of what they do, but nothing really about who they are.  Maybe that’s why the final romance seemed so silly, because there was nothing at all before that showing that the two people involved were in any way attracted to each other.  Had the characters shown a little more emotional depth, the connection might have made sense.

Overall, I’d say that Tell Me You’re Sorry was fun, but mostly forgettable.  

The Nerd’s Rating:  Two Happy Neurons




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