Darcey Bell knows how to get into the minds of her characters. (Read the review of A Simple Favor.) And she doesn’t particularly care if we like the women she creates. In fact, the two protagonists in Something She’s Not Telling Us are downright annoying. But like watching a train wreck, we can’t turn away and ultimately we make the commitment to keep turning the pages.
The story is told from the perspective of two women – Charlotte and Ruth. Charlotte owns a trendy florist shop called Buddenbrooks and Gladiola. Her husband, Eli, made a fortune, first in real estate and then in buying and selling domain names, and now works in the theater, indulging a lifelong passion. Their five year-old daughter, Daisy, is smart and adorable. Charlotte appears to live a charmed life, made all the more remarkable because of her troubled upbringing. When Charlotte was a senior in high school, her mother, Sally, burned down the family home. Charlotte’s anxieties continue into her adult life, making her overprotective of Daisy who has asthma. She also harbors a secret which she has shared with only one person, her therapist, Ted.
Charlotte can’t control her younger brother Rocco, who was in the house when it was set on fire and still carries the psychic scars from that experience. He has been in and out of rehab and tends to date the wrong women. One, nicknamed “Klepto Kathy,” stole Daisy’s favorite stuffed toy, a giraffe. When Rocco shows up with a new girlfriend, Ruth, Charlotte is immediately on guard. Something seems “off.” Ruth appears desperate to bond with Daisy, a red flag for Charlotte. And when Ruth picks Daisy up at school one day and doesn’t return, Charlotte’s worst fears are confirmed.
Daisy’s disappearance opens the mystery, and then we move back in time. Despite Ruth’s shortcomings, on many levels she is better than most of the women Rocco has dated. A big plus is Ruth’s hand in helping Rocco stay sober. But on other occasions, Ruth’s wild behavior and penchant for telling stories and lies that are easily exposed alienates not only Charlotte, but also Rocco. Did she really go to culinary school and work for the food personality, Baroness Frieda? How about the startup she currently works for with an office filled with men who like to harass her?
A pivotal moment comes when everyone travels to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a 60th birthday celebration for Sally. Ruth arrives late with an outlandish tale about her trip with a cab driver who overcharged her and drove recklessly through a group of children. The man shows up later, disputing Ruth’s claim and says that she never paid him. What does it say that Charlotte and the others believe the cab driver? On the day everyone is set to leave Mexico, they find out that a young woman at the party, who, coincidentally spent most of the evening taking with Rocco, was viciously attacked. Could Ruth do such a thing? Or is she being set up?
While we know that Ruth has taken Daisy, we don’t know why. Is Ruth truly dangerous, or is she trying to protect Daisy from Charlotte? When it’s revealed that Ruth knows Charlotte’s secret, the scales begin to tip in her direction.
Something She’s Not Telling Us is the perfect diversion whether readers are sheltering inside or enjoying a social distanced day at the beach.
Something She’s Not Telling Us
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