Suspicion by Alexandra MonirTo be published by Delacorte
on December 9, 2014
Source: eARC for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: "There's something hidden in the Maze." Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family's English country manor. Haunted by her parents' deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin's untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess. All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion's aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself--and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?
My take: Some of the marketing for this book calls it Princess Diaries meets Alfred Hitchcock. While that sounds awesome, this is also a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I think this book struggled to be a romantic suspense, a Cinderella story, and a paranormal romance all at once. While I thought some of the retelling choices were really great, the fact that the book sticks to a major plot point without set-up may baffle and annoy some readers. Let me back up a bit and explain.
I'm a lifelong fan of Rebecca and I try to read all the retellings:
New Girl by Paige Harbison (Harlequin Teen 2012)
The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington (Scholastic Point 2013)
Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin (Simon and Schuster 2013)
As a retelling, I thought that Suspicion made some interesting choices, but also fell into some of the Rebecca pitfalls. I love Rebecca, but will admit that a) the narrator can seem a bit like a doormat, b) the characters aren't the best developed. Let's discuss!
What I liked:
Manderley/Rockford: The original story begins and ends with Manderley, and I liked the fact that Manderley has become an English country manor with a spooky, supernatural vibe.
Rebecca/Lucia: In the original story, Rebecca and the narrator have no prior connection to each other, and I really liked the fact that they were cousins in this YA version. This could have given the Imogen's jealousy of Lucia a whole new spin.
Mrs. Danvers/Mrs. Mulgrave/Maisie: In the original, the narrator is tormented by the evil Mrs. Danvers, and I thought it worked well to give her a teenage daughter.
Supernatural elements: In the book, there's the sense that the ghost of Rebecca haunts Manderley, so I liked the paranormal stuff that was added in Suspicion.
What didn't work as well for me:
In Rebecca, the narrator is young and poor, working as a traveling companion to a cranky old lady, and is swept off her feet by the rich and charming Max de Winter. She sees him as a ticket out of her dreary life, and she grabs it. So yes, the original is insta-love-y, but in a way that made sense to me. I felt a lot of sympathy for Rebecca's main character because she's a little bit mousy and underconfident and feels like she can never live up to the beautiful, dead Rebecca.
In Suspicion, Imogen grows up in privilege -- she's an American whose family visits her cousin Lucia in England, where meets the handsome and charming (and titled!) neighbor Sebastian. After Imogen's parents die, she doesn't see Sebastian for ten years. She's now a rich and titled heiress, and while that "Princess Diaries" aspect of the story was fun, it took away all the vulnerability of the main character in the original. Plus, the fact that Imogen suddenly falls madly in love with her dead cousin's boyfriend makes her seem like the creepy one. (Yes, the book sets up that she had a childhood crush on him, but she was ten years old at the time.)
Suspicion tries to have it both ways: to include the murder plot of Rebecca and to add a new subplot about supernatural powers. It was too much for me. The murder suspect makes complete sense in the original, but feels a little WTF-y in Suspicion and comes so close to the end of the book that everything felt rushed. There's also a new twist (highlight for spoiler) -- the whole Lucia pretending to be Maisie -- (end spoiler) that didn't make much sense to me and also felt crammed in at the end. Finally, I think the supernatural stuff could have been used to better effect. I mean (highlight for spoiler) Imogen's relative was hanged as a witch. I would have liked the story better if Imogen was around for Lucia's murder and was accused of it. And, how could nobody realize that Maisie was Lucia? When I got to that part, I kind of gave up. (end spoiler)
In sum, while I liked the set-up of this retelling and felt it had promise, a lot of things about the story didn't really hold together. If you have read Rebecca, you might enjoy seeing this take, but if you haven't, I think you'll find some aspects of the Suspicion a little out-there. Maybe a lot out-there....
If you have read Suspicion or Rebecca or both, tell me what you think!