Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a bottle of Xanax and a handle of Maker’s Mark, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers secrets in the childhood lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man who Celine herself claimed would be her ruin.
On the hunt for answers that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.
He Will Be My Ruin is K.A. Tucker’s latest novel and the first time I’ve encountered her writing. And I had a fantastic time with this standalone mystery. From the first fraught pages of the prologue, where we find Maggie in desperate straits, until the final pages, this book grabbed me and didn’t let me go.
The book opens in a prologue where we find Maggie fighting for her life, before we flash back to three weeks earlier when the story starts. This beginning creates an immediate investment in Maggie and her survival and simultaneously sets the tone for the suspense level of the novel.The pace of the story is fast, jumping ahead a couple of weeks or a month at several points. At the same time there are flashbacks from Maggie’s point of view and chapters set in the past told from Celine’s viewpoint. There are also chapters from the culprit’s point of view which were chilling.
He Will Be My Ruin is as much about Maggie and Celine’s friendship, as it is about the mystery of Celine’s demise. Much of the focus of Maggie’s development is on her grieving for Celine and coming to terms with the fact that the woman she loved as a sister had secrets and that the way Celine remembers her childhood is far different from how Maggie experienced it. Maggie is the only daughter of an affluent family and while she knows she is privileged, she’s frightfully unaware of how hard growing up on the edge of that was for Celine. The latter’s diaries quite clearly confronted Maggie with her own privilege. Yet while at points Maggie’s intense naivety about her privilege grated, overall she is a very sympathetic protagonist and I really liked her spirit and determination.
What I also really appreciated is that Celine is as much a character in this book as is Maggie. Even though she is dead, through her diaries and the chapters set in the past from her point of view and through what other people — mainly her friend Hans and her neighbour Ruby — say about her and the way her character is revealed in how she organised her collection of antiques in her apartment, she becomes a very vivid presence in the narrative. This is a murder mystery where the victim isn’t lost and the perpetrator doesn’t become the focus of the mystery.
Maggie is aided in her quest to prove that Celine was murdered by a number of fabulous characters: Ruby the octogenarian crime writer who lived across the hall from Celine; Doug, the PI Maggie hires and his hacker sidekick Zac, Celine’s friend Hans, and the super in Celine’s building, Grady. They form an interesting group of sleuths and I really liked all of them, though Ruby stole my heart. She is a delight, with a fine wit and unexpected ideas, she is one of the best characters in the book. There is also a romantic subplot in the novel, with Maggie unexpectedly finding herself drawn to two very different men: Grady and Jace. They are complete opposites, with Grady being a scruffy, aimless, but sweet guy and Jace being a glossy, ambitious and callous dude bro. Maggie’s attraction to both of them is undeniable, even if the caring Grady was the one I was rooting for. However, while these feelings of lust and attraction are an integral part of the story, they are only a part and are a firm driver of the plot, and I loved the resolution to this triangle.
The seeds for most of the revelations were planted throughout the book and only once Tucker revealed the truth did the shoots break the surface to allow the reader to follow them back to their roots. She kept uprooting my notions of who was the killer, making me flip-flop several times. Because of that the book stayed gripping until the very end, resulting in a satisfying denouement, laced with both sadness and hope. I really enjoyed He Will Be My Ruin and I’d recommend it to any psychological thriller fan.
Friday, May 27th: Buried Under Books
Monday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, May 31st: Fuelled By Fiction
Wednesday, June 1st: Why Girls Are Weird
Friday, June 3rd: A Splendid Messy Life
Monday, June 6th: The Book Wheel
Monday, June 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, June 7th: Books a la Mode
Wednesday, June 8th: A Dream Within a Dream
Thursday, June 9th: A Fantastical Librarian
Friday, June 10th: Books & Bindings
Monday, June 13th: The Well Read Redhead
Monday, June 13th: BookBub – author guest post
Tuesday, June 14th: Luxury Reading
Tuesday, June 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, June 15th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Thursday, June 16th: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, June 16th: FictionZeal
Friday, June 17th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, June 20th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, June 21st: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, June 22nd: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, June 23rd: Just Commonly
Friday, June 24th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, June 27th: Books that Hook