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Secrets By The Knoll by Julie Metros

Secrets By The Knoll

by Julie Metros

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Secrets by the Knoll
Early reviewer
There were several things I really liked about this book, but overall, I felt it should have been Part 1 of one larger volume. The ending (while dramatic) left me feeling cheated.
I really liked the attention to detail surrounding the customs of the times—the way the funeral process was handled, the atmosphere of a small rural area, the value of friends and family was complete. It truly felt like a story from an earlier day when people were not as callused as so many appear to be today. But grammatical errors, fragmented sentences, and inconsistent attention to the accent of one of the main characters became unhappy distractions that really made me doubt the validity of the story itself.
I think there is a good story here, but I hope further editing is employed before it is released to the larger reading community. Character development may need to be explored by giving many of them more depth—they seemed too polarized, with the possible exception of the mother.
This is a start—it isn’t fully realized yet. ( )
  Leano | Jan 14, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided in exchange for review by publishers Prodigy Gold Books, via Library Thing.


Okay, maybe I’m weird, but I always thought a novel needed a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even those massive fantasy sagas generally manage to whack one dragon, defeat one evil wizard, and unite one pair of lovers per volume.

Julie Metros apparently doesn’t subscribe to that theory. After setting up Secrets By the Knoll, based on the real-life murder of two Iowa farm children, looking at and exonerating two possible killers, and naming a third suspect in what is literally the last line of the book, she simply … stops. The fact that there’s a “To be continued…” line doesn’t ameliorate the authorial crime of presenting a fragment as a complete story. Even if there were no other problems with this book, that alone would make it impossible for me to recommend this work, or to seek out any “Book 2” which might or might not be in the offing.

There are, however, plenty of other problems with this debut novel.

With dreadfully clunky and amateurish prose, Metros tells – never shows – the story of a hard-working farm family whose Swedish immigrant parents are building a prosperous life near Des Moines. She quickly sets up a bitter division between the father, Lukas Johansson, and his middle son Jacob, but never explains where it’s coming from or why Lukas so blatantly favors his youngest son Timothy. When Timothy and his sister Grace are bludgeoned to death, Lukas essentially withdraws from all interactions with his grieving family. He is so obsessed by the death of his son that he totally ignores the fact that he has also lost a daughter, and that his wife and other children are also suffering.

He is so distraught, in fact, that he may bring yet another tragedy to this already-broken family. Lukas’ actions take place off the page, just a few lines before the story’s abrupt end, and Metros may be playing with the reader’s assumptions here. She also turns her back on the real meat of the story, apparently to be told in a second volume. The arrest of the supposed murderer (whose identity even the casual reader must have sussed out by this time) brings the story to its cliffhanger closing, leaving more unresolved plot noodles than can be counted.

One early suspect, an African-American miner whose arrest inflamed the mostly-white citizens, narrowly avoided being lynched. Metros totally misses the opportunity to take a look at race or class relations at turn-of-the-century Iowa, amply set out in historical documents regarding the crime. She might have looked at how public hysteria, fanned by the worst sort of yellow journalism, drove wedges into a community and set neighbor against neighbor with the irresponsible accusations. She might have chosen to concentrate on the nearly biblical theme of The Favored Son and how that favoritism ultimately destroyed the family. She chooses instead to give us pages and pages and interminable pages about how the children’s bodies were handled at the local funeral home, laid out at home for a viewing, and subjected to not just one but two funerals.

Nor does she give us much in the way of police procedurals, as she again tells-not-shows the resentment of local law enforcement when a “big city” detective is dispatched to aid in the investigation. None of the law enforcement characters ever comes clear on the page. Mostly they just bumble around until an 8-year-old boy provides the clue that leads to the novel’s final arrest.

The generous reader may be able to forgive the clumsiness of the work; may be able to overlook Metros’ tendency to sprinkle incomplete sentences through her prose like croutons through a salad; and may even be able to forgive her for not knowing the difference between chivalry and a chivaree. But no one should forgive Metros or her publisher for trying to fob this fragment off as a complete book. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Jan 8, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This read like a poorly written true crime story. It was hard going. The story is about a violent crime that occurred in 1902 but opens with a short irrelevant chapter in current day, about a descendant of the original victims driving to the site of the crime. Passive sentences, sentence fragments, clumsy metaphors, shallow characterization - and everything painfully described in minute detail, most of which added nothing to any of the story elements. I don't recommend this book.
  valoriefj | Jan 6, 2019 |
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