Lies travel faster than the truth and once released can rarely be contained. Joanna Critchley learns how harmful unsubstantiated gossip can be in Lesley Kara’s debut novel, The Rumor. Jo returns to her old hometown of Flintstead to be closer to her mother, but she has been away long enough to feel like she is starting over since most of her old friends have moved away. As a Real Estate agent, she wants to make some new connections in town and wants to ensure that her young son Alfie is accepted by his peers at school. She fears that her unmarried status and casual relationship with Alfie’s father combined with their son’s mixed race may affect his acceptance in the small town. Her mother suggests she join a Book Club to meet some new people and gain friends. Jo overhears a woman talking about the possibility that a famous child murderer from 30 years ago might have moved to Flintstead under an assumed name. In order to diffuse an emerging conflict, Jo relates the news at a club meeting. Later, when she feels rebuffed by the other mothers at Alfie’s school, she repeats it again-attracting attention and receiving entry into the babysitting exchange and invitations to playdates and parties. Unfortunately, the rumor begins to take on a life of its own, and a local shop owner becomes the target of outraged locals who suspect her of being the released killer. Things become increasing complicated when Alfie’s father, a tenacious reporter, decides he wants to move to town to write about the story. Jo tries to remedy her mistake, but it is too late to reverse the damage. She also feels compelled to find out the truth, and in doing so comes to suspect various residents of being the real perpetrator. The reader is taken along many twists and turns as Jo works through her list of potential suspects. Interspersed are chapters narrated by the anonymous target as Jo gets closer and closer to discovering her identity. The novel has some too-convenient connections and stretches credulity when Jo occasionally seems more naïve than her character would indicate. Still, The Rumor has some wonderful characterizations and manages to also introduce some incisive topics like prejudice and vigilantism imbedded in its nicely paced plot. For her debut, Lesley Kara has provided a solid suspense thriller that will entertain summer readers and attract a fan base that will eagerly await her next effort.
For fans of Liane Moriarty, Nora Roberts and Laura Lippman.
Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for an objective review.