Title: Don’t Believe It
Author: Charlie Donlea
Published: April 30th 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Thriller
Rating: 4.5 stars
The Girl of Sugar Beach is about to become the most watched documentary in television history. The ten-part true-crime serial centers on the burning question: did Grace Sebold really murder her boyfriend, or is she the victim of a shocking miscarriage of justice?
For Grace has spent the last ten years in prison, and now she’s reaching out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a final, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.
As the first episodes go to air, exposing startling new evidence and additional suspects, the series quickly becomes a ratings smash – and Sidney a celebrity in her own right.
Yet by delving deeper into Grace’s past, Sidney is uncovering layer after layer of deception. And as she edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career . . . even her life.
When an ambitious filmmaker in the true crime documentary field meets convicted killer Grace Sebold, a ten year old murder case is turned on its head. Don’t Believe It is the third novel from author Charlie Donlea, who has previously brought readers the gripping thriller, The Girl Who Was Taken. Don’t Believe It is one page turning crime based thriller, with an unusual true crime documentary twist and I guarantee it will blow your mind!
Hot off the press is a brand new television documentary titled, The Girl of Sugar Beach. Rivalling the OJ Simpson trial, it quickly collects high ratings. The mastermind of this successful ten part true crime series is Sidney Ryan. Sidney is highly ambitious and is also determined to uncover the truth in old crime cases, often acting as the catalyst in getting old convictions overturned. The Girl of Sugar Beach focuses on the case of Grace Sebold, a young woman on holiday in St Lucia for a wedding of two friends with her close friends and family, when her boyfriend Julian is killed. With all evidence pointing to Grace, she finds herself jailed and languishing in the cell of prison in St Lucia. Ten years into her sentence, Sidney appears and Grace’s life is about to change. However, the more Sidney digs into Grace’s case, gross injustices come to light. But Sidney has a dilemma, exposing the truth to Grace’s case may be much more dangerous than she ever expected, is she willing to risk her life for the truth, and what will be the consequences of this decision?
Don’t Believe It is my introduction to the work of talented thriller novelist Charlie Donlea. I feel like I have missed out on so much after only just discovering the work of this author. Based on my response to Don’t Believe It, I have resolved to discover the previous novels of Mr Donlea. It has been a really positive reading week for me and this book topped it off. I have a real weakness for the thriller genre and nothing pleases me more than to find a new writer I enjoy.
So why did I enjoy this novel? There are number of resounding factors. Firstly, I loved how Don’t Believe It wasn’t your stock standard thriller. The inclusion of the documentary element to this novel, which takes up a fair chunk of the book and ultimately gave this story a different spin to the usual novels that populate this genre. I also liked how Don’t Believe It offered the reader a great combination between a true crime style documentary, a police procedural and a court case in one. It was a clever tactic on behalf of Donlea to twist these elements together and he pulled it off extremely well.
Donlea takes his time to fully develop his leading characters, convicted killer Grace and documentary maker Sidney. These two ultimately drive the direction of the novel and I appreciated Donlea’s presentation of these characters. Supporting these two female leads are a solid set of periphery characters. Some only receive a few pages of air time in the novel, while others play a much bigger role in the proceedings. I felt suspicious of many of the secondary characters that float in and out of the novel. I think this is what Donlea intended, he definitely sows the seeds of doubt in our mind. Donlea is a master of suspense, big reveals and red herrings. I lost count how many times I changed my mind about the crime. A book that makes you think and act this way receives my full seal of approval.
What I also appreciated about Don’t Believe It was the setting. I can’t recall having read a book set in St Lucia. Donlea transported me to this beautiful part of the world, with great ease. He also shows the reader just how inadequate the police investigation into the murder case became. Donlea also explores the reaction of locale, which was clearly reliant on tourism and how this affects their decision on Grace’s sentencing. It certainly made for an interesting read.
The overwhelming feature that I think will take this novel over the line for readers, especially for fans of the crime thriller genre, is the true crime aspect of this novel. In our current climate, there has been a rise in the interest shown in true crime books, documentaries, television serials and podcasts. Donlea has tapped into this contemporary fascination by featuring it in his latest novel.
So I come to the end of this review and I need to make a final quick comment on the ending of this novel. It was so very good, it blew me away and I loved the final twist, which I didn’t see coming – at all! Bravo Charlie Donlea! I am keen to see if another book following on from this one is in the works, as there were a few things left dangling at the close of Don’t Believe It. This one is an absolute must, especially if you are a true crime fiend, or you appreciate a different flavour to your usual crime thrillers.
Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea was published on April 30th 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Don’t Believe It, Charlie Donlea visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.