Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review: No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

For me, life was a house that I passed through quietly, trying not to unsettle the dust or bump up against the furniture. Henry was just the opposite; he moved through life with his hands outstretched, picking everything up and measuring its weight in his hands, knocking on walls to test their strength. [pg 116]

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
Delacorte Press, 2008
Fiction; 306 pgs

I imagine Ellie would be dismayed to learn that I do not like the taste of coffee. I do not even care for mocha ice cream. But, oh, do I love the smell of a fresh pot of coffee, especially in the morning!

Ellie Enderlin has the perfect nose for coffee. She had never set out to become a coffee buyer, but it is a career well suited to her. She can pick out the individual scents and flavors of varying coffee types and knows a good coffee bean when she comes across it. During her most recent business trip to Nicaragua, Ellie runs into a person from her past, a person she never expected to see again.

Nearly twenty years before, Ellie’s older sister Lila was murdered, her body discovered in the woods days after Lila had disappeared. Lila was the golden child of the family, the math genius. Ellie always felt she was living in her sister’s shadow, never quite living up to her parents’ expectations. Lila was extraordinary. Ellie felt ordinary, even after Lila’s death. Ellie and her sister could not have been more different, one finding comfort in numbers and the other in books. Where Ellie was more social, her sister seemed to prefer solitude. Still, the two young women loved each other very much and shared a bond that only two sisters could share. Lila’s death was devastating to her family. She left behind a gaping hole that could never be filled.

Upon her sister’s death, Ellie turned to her professor as a confidante, leaning on his shoulder for support. She trusted him with her inner most thoughts only to have him turn her family’s tragedy into a bestselling spectacle. He went so far as to name the man he believed was behind the death of Lila in his book, something even the police could not do.

It was the man accused of Lila’s murder that approached Ellie in the out of the way Nicaraguan restaurant late one night. What he told her would change Ellie’s life view irrevocably. Everything she came to believe to be true was suddenly in question. Was it possible that this man, Peter McConnell, really was innocent of her sister’s murder? Ellie is suddenly determined to learn the truth, and, in the process, she learns much about not only her sister, but herself as well.

No One You Know is an amazing novel. Simple as that. Michelle Richmond has created characters that are complex and deep. Ellie’s issues with trust are multi-layered. She always believed her sister was murdered by someone her sister trusted and loved. How then could she trust those close to her? And then to be betrayed by a close friend when her confidante wrote a book about her family’s tragedy against her wishes. Is it any wonder then that Ellie has problems with trust—and love? Then there is Lila, who even in death is wholly alive in the novel. The more Ellie learns about her sister, the less perfect Lila seems, and the more equal the two sisters become.

There are the other major players in the book. Andrew Thorpe, former professor, now bestselling author. He charmed his way into Ellie’s life and while he may have truly believed he was a good friend to Ellie, his motivations and actions said otherwise. Peter McConnell, Lila’s math partner and the man Thorpe accused of having murdered Lila had fled the country, driven out away from his family because of the accusations being leveled at him. His entire life was ruined, and yet he had found some sort of peace in his new life, surviving as best he could. I cannot leave out mention of Henry, Ellie's ex-boyfriend. She gave more of herself to him than she had to most others in her life, and yet she still held back. There are other characters as well that stand out. Each one having a distinct purpose in the novel.

“’ . . . in order for a book to be really good, it’s not enough to develop the major characters. The minor ones, too, have to be distinct. When readers close the book, they shouldn’t just remember the protagonist and antagonist. They should remember everyone who walks across the pages.’” [pgs 268-269]

San Francisco is a beautiful city and proved to be the perfect setting for the majority of No One You Know. I have a special fondness for the city myself and could relate to Ellie’s admiration and love for it. The author paints San Francisco just as it is, both in its glory and its haze, which fits the story all the more.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel was the balance between mathematics and the elements that make a good story. Two aspects that might seem very different on the surface, and yet share a lot in common. On one hand the author would offer a mathematical conjecture and how it may come to be proven, while on the other, she would describe how a story is shaped and formed. It is an overreaching theme that fit well with the discovery of truth in Lila’s death, the building of a proof to make an absolute, the forming of a story with a beginning, middle and end. For me, it was also an extension of Lila and Ellie, their differences and their similarities.

The true crime book aspect of the novel provided a lot of food for thought. It felt like Andrew Thorpe had taken advantage of his friendship with Ellie, and exploited her family's tragedy. Not only that, but it also had resounding repercussions on Peter McConnell and his family. There are many viewpoints out there about true crime, including whether it is pure sensationalism or provides a valuable truth. I am not sure even now where I stand. I think that it can be either/or and some of both.

My favorite quote is actually the final two sentences of the book, which I have decided not to share here. And while neither contains a spoiler, part of their power comes from reading them in context. As I read those lines, I found myself nodding in complete agreement. It was the perfect wrap up for this wonderful book.

I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. The characterizations, the setting, the story, and the language drew me in so completely. There was no one aspect of the novel I did not like. No One You Know is a novel that will appeal to mystery lovers as well as those who prefer contemporary fiction. While the mystery plays center stage, it is the growth and development of the characters that are really what this novel is about. It’s a combination that I find irresistible and I hope you will too.

Rating: * (Outstanding)

Be sure and stayed tuned! Author Michelle Richmond has graciously agreed to appear on Musings of a Bookish Kitty as a guest in the near future, and there may just be a book giveaway to boot!

For more information about the author and her books, including an excerpt from No One You Know, please visit Michelle Richmond's website.

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge & New Authors Challenge


  1. I can't wait to read this book! I've seen so many great reviews.

    Looking forward to the author interview.

  2. Sounds like a great book, Wendy!
    I look forward to the guest post!

  3. This it the first I've seen of this book but it sounds fantastic...will have to look it up.

  4. I've seen some reviews of this one and it sounds like it has the perfect mix of things that would be an extremely entertaining read! Great review! (BTW, I despise coffee!)

  5. This sounds like a great book. It's going on my wish list right now!

  6. 5 stars! Wow - I've got to read this one.

  7. Great review; I'm looking forward to this one as well.

  8. Wow, I don't see a ton of five star reviews from you! I have this one begging to be read (I have a couple ahead of it) and I imagine I will also love the book given my response to her last book (The Year of Fog). Thanks for the review!

  9. I read an excerpt from this and fell in love with it. Thanks for the great review!

  10. Nikki - I didn't mention it in my post, but I should have--Florinda was the first to clue me in to Michelle Richmond. I've been wanting to read her books ever since. I'm looking forward to reading the author's other books.

    Melody - It was so good! I am so glad I read it.

    Claire - Do pick it up if you get the chance!

    Sandy - I thought so, at least. It was such a great read. I really tried to like coffee for awhile there, but I just never acquired the taste for it. I'm not a big tea drinker either, although I can tolerate that taste better.

    Lynne - I hope you will get the chance to read it!

    Kathy - It has been awhile since I gave a book such a high mark, hasn't it?

    Diane - Thank you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when you get to it.

    Wendy - I've become really stingy, haven't I? LOL I can't wait to read The Year of Fog. From what I've read from people who have read both, that book is even better than this one.

    Janel - It's so good! Even a little taste pulls you in, doesn't it?

  11. i haven't read this, but after reading the excerpt and your glowing review, i really have to get my hands on this one! thanks for the tip. i'm off to the library tonight, hope i can find it there.

  12. I really liked this one, too. I'll have to read some more by this author.

  13. I loved this book and one of my favourite quotes is the one you included at the beginning of your review. I must definitely get my hands on more of her books soon!

    I can't drink coffee, but I love coffee-flavoured things like yogurt or ice cream!

  14. I had the chance to read and review No One You Know last year - it's great to see everyone catching up now :-)! (I'm not usually ahead of the curve on this stuff.) Thanks for mentioning that I "introduced" you to Michelle Richmond, Wendy - she was my "Author Discovery" of 2008, and I can't wait for her next book!

    I'm so glad you liked No One You Know so much, and will look forward to your thoughts on The Year of Fog, which was my favorite book of last year.

    And my husband is like you - loves the smell of coffee, but won't touch it otherwise :-).

    Terrific review.

  15. I'm not a mystery gal but I like when it's mixed in with contemporary fiction. So glad you liked this one.

  16. I'll be honest, I'm sick of seeing the "beloved older sister dies (or is murdered), younger sister tries to deal" story. I've encountered too many, in which almost all were geared towards very narrow, specific audiences without accepting a wider world. And most were very poorly done. That's not to say this is a bad story (I obviously have not read it), but I will steer clear of this particular one.

  17. I really enoyed this novel too Wendy. It was really great. I'm a coffee lover though so this was a fascinating aspect for me as well as the mathematical element. It was really well written and all of it just blended really well together. Great review!

  18. Great review, Wendy! I will be looking for this one. Thanks!

  19. High praise!! This is going on my list right now.

    (Life by Candlelight)

  20. I checked this book out once and ran out of time so I had to return it...now I'm crying because I see that I missed out on a great read. So I'm going to be naughty and request this book...AGAIN!!!! Excellent review Wendy!!

  21. I'm looking for some really good mysteries that are completely new to me so this sounds like it would be worthy of my list! Thanks for the recommendation.

    (I hate coffee - the drink and the ice cream - but unlike you I can't even enjoy the smell.)

  22. Booklineandsinker - I hope you can get a copy too!

    Carey - I am glad you liked it too. :-) I can't wait to read more by her as well.

    Avis - There were so many great quotes in this novel, weren't there?

    Florinda - We're just a little slow this time around. :-) I'm so glad you introduced me to Michelle Richmond. I'm looking forward to readng The Year of Fog, especially since so many say its even better than this one!

    Ti - This definitely is a cross-genre book.

    Anonymous Child - I can't speak to the other books you are referring to, but I personally think that No One You Know has wide appeal. Of course it won't appeal to everyone. No book ever does.

    Dar - I really liked the coffee information as well, even not being a coffee person. :-) I learned quite a bit I hadn't known before.

    Jenclair - Thank you!

    Amy - I hope you like it if you do read it. :-)

    Staci - Oh no! I hate it when that happens. Hopefully you can get your hands on another copy.

    Bumbles - I love mysteries! If you ever need a recommendation, I'd be glad to offer a few titles for you to try. :-)

  23. Wonderful review. I've heard about this book and your review really makes me want to read it all the more!

  24. This looks really good and you are so enthusiastic about it. Totally going on the list!

  25. Myckyee - Thank you! I think you might like this one.

    Kelly - I really did like this one and I'm glad that came across in my review. ;-) If you do read it, I hope you enjoy it!

  26. Wonderful review Wendy! This and The Year of Fog are on my tbr.

  27. Great review. I love a mystery, so I'll have to look into this.

  28. Your review has made me want to read this! It looks like it has everything I love in a book. Thanks for the recommendation.

  29. Five stars?! I am definitely adding this one to my to-read list.

  30. This sounds so good! I added it to my list after reading your review. I certainly hope there's a giveaway! :)

  31. I loved this book! Thanks for stopping by Waiting on Wednesday...as for John Irving, I highly recommend "A Widow for One Year"

  32. Even though I have this one sitting on the bookshelf, it hasn't seemed that interesting. Your review, however, changed my mind. Suddenly, I want to read it. Thanks!

  33. Teddy - Thank you! I have The Year of the Fog on my TBR stack too. I'm looking forward to reading that one as well.

    Beth - Thank you! I love a good mystery too. :-)

    Stacy - If you do give it a try, I hope you'll enjoy it!

    Carrie (Books&Movies) - It really touched a chord with me. :-)

    Book Resort - Thanks!

    Alyce - I just posted about the giveaway. :-)

    Jill - I'll add A Widow for One Year to my wish list. Thanks for the recommendation. :-)

    Jill (Softdrink) - Some books you just have to be in the right mood for, don't you? When you do read this one, I hope you like it as much as I did.

  34. Great review. Now I want to read it!

  35. Oh I'm so glad you enjoy this one so much. This author is unfamiliar to me but the story sounds really powerful!

  36. I read Year of Fog first and liked it too, but I think I enjoyed No One You Know even more.

  37. Wendy...Your review is a tempting enticement and I have no willpower.
    I'll have to read this one.
    I wouldn't have unless I had read your review. Fabulous!
    Thanks, Wisteria

  38. Wow! This post is shining bright! (5 stars) :) Mystery/contemporary fiction sounds like a great mix. I'm glad it turned out to be a winner for you and hope it is for me, too. *grin*

  39. A lovely review. Please put me in for this draw.

  40. Jaimie - Thanks! I hope you enjoy it if you do read it. :-)

    Jen - It's such a good book. There's so much to it too!

    Melissa - I'm looking forward to reading Year of Fog. I'm glad you enjoyed that one as well. :-)

    Donna - LOL I have very little willpower when it comes to books too.

    Joy - I hope you will like it, Joy, when you read it.

    Jennifer Dee - Thank you!

  41. I thought this sounded interesting when I first heard of it, and I have it on my wish list. But wow, your review makes me want it Right Now! :P

  42. Nat - I hope you do get a chance to read it!


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