Title: For the Love of Alison
Author: Sahlan Diver
Publication date: February 21, 2019
Genre: Mystery and Thriller
One Sentence Summary: After walking into a crime scene, David Buckley is immediately suspected…because the murderer doesn’t exist, prompting David to go on the run to figure out who set him up.
For the Love of Alison is a twisty mystery and thriller read that definitely had me guessing more than once. I loved the early setup of the main character, David, having been hospitalized for mental illness thirty years before and hints of how it’s still affecting his life. It delightfully colored the story, which had me guessing more often than I had things figured out. It was fun to put the pieces together with David, but I really enjoyed how it wasn’t rushed. As a matter of fact, parts of it felt almost too slow, but I came to appreciate the material provided in those slower sections. From the storytelling to the setting on the waterways of the UK, to characters I struggled to trust, For the Love of Alison was a brilliant interplay between all the factors brought together for an incredibly enjoyable read.
Thirty years ago, David Buckley became obsessed with a fellow student, a young woman named Alison. It led to hospitalization for mental illness, after which he became a well-known political reporter, notably targeting a right-wing politician named Jack Johnson.
It started with a call from Alison at his workplace, during which she asked him to travel to meet with her. Oh, and she’s Jack Johnson’s wife so he must depart their home before her husband returns. After a seemingly nonsensical meeting, which involved a method actor dressed as a clown, David is invited back after Johnson has departed for a trip later that night. But, when David returns, Alison is gone and Johnson is dead. And David is the prime suspect. Determined to prove his innocence, David goes on the run, tracing Alison’s life backwards and forwards and untangling a wild web.
For the Love of Alison involves a murderer who doesn’t exist. How could I resist? I must say, this novel seemed to fall somewhere between a mystery and a thriller, but definitely held my attention despite the long length of time covered in the narrative. It was twisty and fascinating and there were times when even I thought David was crazy. I loved how tangled it was and, even though it was a little distracting when other perspectives were put in, it really had my mind running overtime to try to piece it together. For the Love of Alison was a whole lot more than I expected, and I really enjoyed it all.
For the Love of Alison is told mostly from David’s perspective. Early on, David’s struggle with mental illness is established, delightfully coloring the rest of the story. I quite liked David. I could understand his desperation to find the truth, his confusion as conflicting stories are presented to him, and his desire to be careful. He’s so meticulous, and got lucky a few times, that it was really fun to read his story. I did feel a little confused about why he didn’t just jump on the trail right away and instead took several months to prepare, but I did feel the story explained it very well, even if I wanted it to be sped up a little. I loved how careful he was, how he planned out everything. He’s very detail-oriented and really put his background to use. I can’t fully say I really knew who he was, but I really liked his character.
There are a number of other characters, but I felt David was really the only one with any depth to him. Everyone else had a role to play, which they played to perfection, but, other than a couple of them, they felt kind of one note. There wasn’t too much more to them than what was presented. Then again, the story is told mostly from David’s perspective and it’s established early on that he suffered from mental illness, so I’m not too surprised that they were assigned a role in the story and not much more. The couple of characters, though, who did have more depth, were fascinating. Their story and how they were connected to David was a little crazy and almost seemed out there, but I really did like the way their minds worked, the way they were crazy enough to do everything they did. They felt almost as crazy as David did at times, and, sometimes, I wondered which one of them was really the nutty one.
For the Love of Alison really takes the reader on a bit of a wild ride. At times, it’s slow and there isn’t much happening, but the things that are happening are actually contributing to a richer story. But, when the story is moving, it’s like watching moving parts. Perspectives switch around and events are seen from different characters at different points of time, or perhaps what’s happening is conjecture on David’s part, or maybe it’s just a reconstruction of told parts. Either way, it has the potential of becoming confusing, and there was a time or two when I was confused, but it all clears up in the end. There isn’t as much heart pounding action going on, making the story more suspenseful than anything else, but I do love how it pulled people in and showed just how far reaching one action can be.
The storytelling in this book is near flawless to me. It simply flowed despite some periods of confusion. I really ended up appreciating the slower, quieter parts not just because they did add something, but because it gives that suspenseful atmosphere. There’s no headlong rush, which was great considering David is so careful and meticulous. He’s not prone to making errors, so the way the story was told and the time it took to tell it really played well with his characterization. It really made reading For the Love of Alison a delight. Mostly, I loved that it neither felt too long nor too short.
But my favorite part has to be just how twisted the story is. It did seem a little far fetched at times, but it was really very rooted in the characters’ histories and motivations. Most of the dots connected really well for me, and the ones that didn’t quite make it did end up being cleared up, leaving me with a very satisfying ending. As a matter of fact, the ending was quite a surprise to me, but I really liked how fitting it was. The rest of the story just had me running all over the place alongside David, but it was wonderful to do it with him. I liked how I could never quite tell what was going to happen or who was involved, and all the twists were brilliantly done.
For the Love of Alison felt very much somewhere between a mystery and thriller. It’s delightfully suspenseful with really great characters. I loved how much of it was set on the canals and rivers of the UK, though it did seem convenient at how easy it was to get to places a little further from the waterways. Still, I adored the atmosphere in this book. The setting, the story, and the characters interacted brilliantly to make a story I felt fully immersed in.
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Thank you to the author, Sahlan Diver, for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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