Suspicion starts out the way I always think a story I’m writing ought to start: jarring, with the reader coming in mid-plot, being fed some snippets of heavy information, and then being thrown into a flashback, destined to accompany the protagonist on a journey of self-discovery fated to end where the Prologue began. But I never finish those stories I write which start like that because it’s unnecessarily complicated. Flash forward, flash back, and then a long road to where we came in. By the time you get to the connecting point, you’ve forgotten where you started. It’s a cheap way to seem daring, and I’ve seen it too many times.
After the Prologue we go back to 2007 when our main character, Imogen, is 10, which is already painful since whenever I think about being 10 I go back to 1992. We learn about her familial relationships, her summers at Rockford Estate with her cousin, Lucia, her interest in “the boy next door,” and get a glimpse at what makes her “different.” I’ll save you the spoiler, but it seems connected to the grounds of Rockford, the ancestral home of Imogen’s predecessors. Like so many YA heroes and Disney princesses, her parents and her aunt and uncle are killed in a devastating fire, leaving her and Lucia orphans.
We jump seven years ahead, and find Imogen fairly well adjusted back in New York where she originally lived with her parents. She’s now in high school and under the guardianship of her parents’ best friends. Although graduation and NYU loom ahead, any plans for the future she’s been dithering over are derailed when the manager of her family’s estate appears with surprising (to her) news. Following the untimely death of Lucia, and the subsequent passing of her grandfather, Imogen is now a Duchess and the heir to Rockford.
The next 60% of the story is spent in what might be considered a charmingly awkward, and perhaps exciting-to-a-teenaged-girl series of events where Imogen leaves New York for England, and learns how to be a Duchess. This is arguably the better part of the story because at least it elicits a few laughs and employs some fun imagery. We’re eventually reunited with “present day” Imogen who we follow until we land back at where the Prologue left us, which is a good 80% into the book.
I really didn’t care for Suspicion overall. It follows the trend of YA fiction, especially those with teenage females at the lead, where the main character is surprised to find that he or she holds some kind of powerful ability unbeknownst to him or her. Don’t get me wrong; one of my favorite lines in YA literature is “You’re a wizard, Harry!” And I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy that trope when it’s put to inventive and creative good use. Unfortunately, Suspicion falls bit short of being really unique, or even kind of unique.
It’s not a bad story, but it is lacking. While I liked Imogen well enough, I can’t say I connected to her. And though I’m usually a sucker for British peerage and castles and etiquette and all that that conjures, I don’t think I learned anything new or interesting. All in all, Suspicion is predictable, and yet somehow erratic. So often I knew what was going to happen next, what kind of dialogue was to follow. And then at the same time I would get blindsided with a decision or an observation or a revelation that came out of nowhere. I don’t think that this is an issue of Monir being inconsistent as an author, but rather providing what she feels is the standard reasoning of a seventeen year old girl and her translation of what the mysterious twisted deeds of those who wish to manipulate her must look like.
I did enjoy the history that Monir created for Rockford Estate and Lady Beatrice, the enigmatic ancestor who provides a clue as to who and what Imogen really is. Although that was vastly overshadowed by unintentional bathos of the totally unlikely and utterly complicated resolution of the mystery shrouding her parents’ and aunt and uncle’s deaths.
Suspicion is not a waste of time, nor is it by any means terrible. But it does lack the believability that a solid supernatural-themed novel is capable of. In fact, the supernatural aspect of this story is quite understated, and perhaps more believable than some of the plots, deceptions, and choices that most of the characters engage in.