I was completely taken in by the cover. Muted and blurry, it sets the tone for the novel: Grace is involved in a car crash, netting her a brain injury and limited memories. What little comfort she has returning to her childhood home with her sister is negated by two police officers and their bad news: Grace’s boyfriend has been murdered. And you guessed it — with no memory, Grace has no alibi. She’s the top suspect, and she’s determined to clear her name.
After loving the much-hyped The Girl on the Train, I was in the mood for another unreliable narrator. I also appreciate a solid, suspenseful mystery, so I had high hopes for E. C. Diskin’s Broken Grace. And while they weren’t quite met, I’ve found an author whose future writing career interests me.
The protagonist, Grace, felt somewhat replaceable. I wasn’t sure what distinct character traits defined her. Her arc is to clear her name and regain her lost memories, but there’s not a lot about her that I can articulate. It felt very plot- and device-driven and less character-driven.
And Grace perhaps could have stood on her own and felt more fleshed out if the novel hadn’t also been split with another POV. One of the (male) cops investigating Grace has his fair share of POV chapters. This bothered me because it felt like Grace’s story was being take over by a knight-in-shining-armor type. In fact, early on he makes it very clear that he has some sort of pre-established connection with Grace, and that his motivation is to clear her name. He doesn’t find her to be a credible suspect, and that drives a lot of his input into the case. It removed the urgency from Grace’s search and weakened her character arc; as long as this guy was investigating the murder, Grace would never be a serious suspect, at least not for the reader.
I would have loved a tight, intimate tale of a woman trying to clear her name and remember who she is. And by not having a male cop POV, it would have raised the stakes for Grace because she would have no idea if she was clearing her name, helping the investigation, or walking into a trap. It also would have helped her feel more capable and independent, without the benefit of a protector.
I also feel like I can’t reasonably review this book without talking about the ending. That said, I don’t want to dive into specific spoilers. So, I’ll try to keep it broad — but you may want to avoid the next paragraph just in case!
So much happens in the last few pages. There are some massive reveals, including the killer(s) and motive(s). Some of it feels very unexpected, like it was intended to be a twist without actually earning it. The best suspenseful endings feel like they come out of left field, but the author has been building very logically to that point. The big reveal in Broken Grace just felt like it came out of left field. And our male cop’s major conflicts draw to a close, seemingly wrapped up in a nice bow — perfect for the family Christmas he’ll be attending! His arc just felt a little too neat and borderline cliché.
What I liked the most about Broken Grace is E. C. Diskin, the author. I feel like Diskin is at the early point of her writing career — this is her second novel — and she’s on her way up. The concept was interesting, and this book was dripping with a certain je ne sais quoi. There’s a fun kind of charisma in how Diskin writes. I imagine we’ll see more of her in the coming years, and I am interested to see how she grows as an author.
Although I didn’t love Broken Grace, I see a lot of potential and will certainly read more of Diskin’s work in the future. And if her next book features Alice, the salty bartender who steals the show in her scenes, I will be more than thrilled.
Broken Grace is available on Tuesday, August 25th.