Review: The Pool House by Tasmina Perry

I think most people will have guessed by now that I love myself a crime fiction/thriller novel, especially when it’s executed well and follows an original idea. If I’m reading a novel of this genre, I want to be kept in suspense, feeling engaged with the characters throughout.  Likewise, I want to be left uncertain of where the plot will take me, whilst simultaneously being awed by the writing. If a book can to that, especially in a genre which is so often seen as merely an entertaining or fun read, then it is certainly an accomplishment.

When I first saw the cover for The Pool House, I didn’t necessarily think it would tick all of the above. If I’m honest, I wasn’t a massive fan of the cover design and felt that it made the novel seem quite tame. However, I read the blurb and I was definitely intrigued. Essentially the novel focuses upon Jem Chapman and her high flying husband Nat after a recent relocation to America. After befriending two pairs of socially elite couples, they are given an exclusive offer; the chance to join them in a house share in the Hamptons. Excited by the rare and privileged opportunity, Jem and her husband accept, unaware of the disastrous events of last summer. Soon Jem learns of the young woman who was found dead, drowned in the houses pool after excessive drinking. Her death is described as an accident, a drunk woman who did not know how to swim. Yet the more Jem gets to know her new housemates, the more she begins to prise apart the cracks in their foundations.

I want to start straight off by saying that this book really wasn’t written in the kind of style I usually enjoy. I am a very literary person, and the writing in this was incredibly simple. Of course, I do enjoy more of an accessible, easier read every now and then, but for a book which was pegged as a ‘bestseller’, I was very disappointed by the actual craft of writing which was displayed. The description was all extremely basic and did nothing to ignite my senses.

The book is written in third person, and whilst I am a huge fan of the use of the omniscient narrator, it just did not work for me here. What I found upon reading was this strange blend of a third person narrator who was actually speaking in a first person character voice. I don’t understand why the author did not just write the book in the more natural first person perspective, as I actually think the book would have worked better for this. As it was, we were greeted with strange, colloquial phrases from the narrator such as ‘a mop of dark bad-boy hair’, (p. 13) and ‘the place was pumping’ (p. 21). These phrases did not have the distance which I think is usually employed by an omniscient narrator, instead sounding much more like the characters own observations. Why she did not just write it in the characters own voice really confused me.

As I think my chosen phrase above highlight, the book is written in a very generic and simplistic manner. These written clichés are something which also carries over into the main plot of the novel. The way the character meet and connect which each other are incredibly generic and unlike reality, allowing you to guess early on the direction the novel will take. The plot was very simplistic, with even the ‘shocking’ revelation moment being entirely predictable. I guessed from pretty prematurely what had happened to Alice, the drowned woman, and was disappointed when I was proven right.  I do wonder if perhaps a lot of this had to do with the way the writer framed her novel. As well as having our present day timeline which follows Jen, we also flash back to scenes from last summer, where we follows the character of Alice in the weeks leading to her death. I don’t feel that this added anything to the novel, as I did not find myself more engaged by her character, and it actually filled in the mysteries of the novel far too easily.

Sadly, I did not like the characterisation within the book either. All of the characters, even Jem, are extremely generic and created to fit certain stereotypes. In all honestly I did not think that any of the characters were distinguishable, bare perhaps Michael, and I did not feel as if we got to establish a connection to any of them. Rather than understanding our characters and getting inside their heads, I felt that were were simply told how they felt repeatedly, rather than actually believing that they felt such things. For example, I did not really understand or believe in Jem’s desire to uncover the truth about Alice, which did not really establish a good main crux for the novel. I also think the way in which the characters are presented was pretty poor from a skilled point of view. The men especially are described in such generic terms that it was quite cringe worthy, with the same repeated phrases used to describe how ‘hot’ each character was.

Whilst it’s fair to say that I really was not a fan of this novel, I do think this will appeal to many readers, especially if they do not have a high literary drive or are not massive readers. The novel is certainly an easy read, and if you have not read a lot of thrillers or crime novels then perhaps the main mystery will take you by surprise. Sadly this was not the case for me. The entire novel was extremely lack lustre and far too clichéd for me too enjoy it or grant it any merit.  I will not be picking up anything from this author in the future.

Has you read anything by Tasmina Perry? Are her other books in a similar style?

Publisher: Headline

Rating: 2*/5*

Disclaimer – I was very kindly sent this book in exchange for a review. I will only ever post my own honest opinions, and will NOT write a favourable review in exchange for a complimentary book.

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