Author: Sandra S.G. Wong
Genres: Mystery, Fiction
Pub. Date: Jun. 21, 2022 (read Jun. 2022)
Thanks to Harper Collins Canada for providing me with a free advance copy of In the Dark We Forget in exchange for an honest review. I don’t read a lot of mystery books, but I was really excited for this one because it’s by a Canadian author and set in the Canadian Rockies!
The premise of the book is very intriguing. A young Asian-Canadian woman wakes up in the woods with no memory of where she is or how she got there. As she starts to remember some of the details, including that her name is Cleo, we learn that her parents recently won the lottery and that they are now missing too. As the police delve deeper and find little information, we begin to question Cleo’s relationship to both her parents and their disappearance.
Sadly the premise was the most compelling part of the book. This is being sold as a mystery-thriller, but I think it would have worked a lot better as literary fiction (and to be honest, I think that’s what the author was going for as well). Wong had some great ideas in terms of theme and characters, but the plotting of the book really just didn’t work for what I felt she was trying to accomplish. This could have been a moderately interesting book about diaspora and Asian-Canadian culture if it had been further and better developed, but instead it’s a poor mystery novel that bogs itself down with poor writing.
I do really hate to rag on the book because it is a debut, but I can’t deny the writing wasn’t strong. I was expecting this to be really fast paced, but it’s actually incredibly slow and boring because the author insists on taking us on an almost totally linear trajectory, with no time jumps between scenes to move the story along. While everything before Cleo’s accident is foggy in her memory, every second after is accounted for in great detail. I felt like there was a lot of pointless filler and it really made the book drag. It took way too long for us to find out anything meaningful about Cleo. If you’re going to center a mystery around a family dynamic, you can’t waste 100 pages before even revealing who any of the characters are.
I honestly felt like barely anything happened in the entire book. The author gives up absolutely nothing in terms of the mystery element, which is why I questioned why it’s shelved as mystery. You have to give your reader some details to keep them interested and guessing, but this book presents the scenario and then does almost nothing to advance the details. It has a very ambiguous ending, which can work in a literary fiction, but I thought felt very out of place in a mystery. It’s not ambiguous in the way that it leaves me wondering which of 2 scenarios might have occurred, but ambiguous in the way that I have literally no idea what actually happened. I feel that there should be some kind of payout at the end of the book, but I didn’t even get that, so it really left me frustrated at why I had invested so much time in the book when absolutely none of the questions presented in the synopsis of the book are answered.
Anyways, I don’t want to go on and on. It was a disappointing read for me, but others might like it. Go into this knowing it’s definitely not a thriller and only partially a mystery. If I’d taken a different approach I might have liked it a bit more.