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REVIEW: YA Suspense Thriller CHARLIE, PRESUMED DEAD Will Leave You (Presumed) Dead

We have one very important question about Anne Heltzel’s CHARLIE, PRESUMED DEAD…

WHAT THE WHAT?!

When Charlie Price dies unexpectedly in a plane crash, his girlfriend attends his funeral. And so does his other girlfriend. Lena is a wealthy, presumptuous Bostonian attending college in London who has been dating Charlie for three years. Aubrey is a Midwestern darling who just finished high school and has had a whirlwind romance of her own with Charlie for the past year. Neither knew of the other’s existence until the funeral. When Charlie’s lies are exposed in broad daylight, they can’t help wonder what other secrets Charlie took with him to the grave. And without a body in sight, is Charlie really even dead?

At this point, you’re probably thinking of some comedic revenge romp movie in which two women scorned become best friends and take on their ex and all his lies together. You’d be (dead) wrong. A mixture of curiosity and necessity drives Lena and Aubrey through Paris, London, Mumbai, and Bangkok, but so do their own secrets. Not everyone is hoping that Charlie will turn up alive and as each layer of the story is peeled back, it’s easier to see why. Their wealthy, charming boyfriend had a callous darkness within him and left destruction in his wake. Even a moment spent underestimating anyone around them could be their last.

The best way to describe CHARLIE, PRESUMED DEAD is intentional. Strange word choice, we know. But author Anne Heltzel knows exactly what she’s doing. It starts off as a slow burn, masked in exposition and curiosity, that grows into something larger and more sinister with each chapter leading up to an almost unbearably suspenseful finale.

The delayed gratification involved in such storytelling does have a couple downsides. Lena and Aubrey come off a bit like caricatures in the beginning of the novel because the author is purposefully hiding their depth. The book will hit you hard at the end, the beginning doesn’t come on as strongly– the whole London section of the book doesn’t feel necessary in the overall picture. Still, we’ll forgive it because it’s such a strong novel otherwise.

If you prefer your books simple and uncomplicated and without much shock value, this probably isn’t your jam. But if you like a story that builds up suspense and grips you in unexpected ways, you’ll be pleasantly (or perhaps not-so-pleasantly) surprised by CHARLIE, PRESUMED DEAD.

Okay, we have one more important question…

When do we get a sequel?!

RATING: 4 Out Of 5 Stars

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CHARLIE, PRESUMED DEAD is out this Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

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