The Bookworm Sez
‘You Don’t Want to Know’ is a mystery for a summer diversion

“You Don’t Want to Know” by Lisa Jackson; c.2012, Kensington; $25.00 / $27.95 Canada; 472 pages
The skeleton in your family closet has been there since before you were born.

Its knee bone’s connected to a distance uncle who ran an illicit business. The arm bone’s connected to a cousin, twice removed, who was known to tipple. An ankle bone’s connected to a twice-great-grandmother, six times married. And the shoulder bone’s connected to your mother, but you don’t know why.

And, as you’ll see in the new book by Lisa Jackson, maybe “You Don’t Want to Know.”

The cries of “Mama!” entered Ava Church Garrison’s brain, and woke her from deep sleep. Her four-year-old son, Noah, needed her, and Ava stumbled from her bed.

But it wasn’t Noah.

Noah was gone. He’d disappeared during a Christmas party two years prior, which nearly caused Ava to lose her mind. There were so many things she blacked out, so much she didn’t remember…

Terri Schlichenmeyer

In the months after Noah’s disappearance, in fact, Ava had spent time in a nearby hospital, drugged, bereft, grieving and forgetting. Her husband, Wyatt, had been so solicitous, even going so far as to hire a private psychiatrist who made house calls to Neptune Island, off the coast of Washington.

Still, cries of “Mama!” rang in Ava’s ears. Was it possible that someone in her huge household was trying to “gaslight” her?

Ava thought Wyatt had cause. He seemed to be quite taken with Dr. Evelyn McPherson, and they were a little too cozy. Dr. McPherson couldn’t be trusted, either.

Surely Ava’s cousin, Jewel-Anne had reason to make Ava mistrust herself. Ever since the boating accident that killed Ava’s brother and paralyzed Jewel-Anne, the women had had a shaky relationship.

And then there was that mysterious ranch hand that Wyatt hired. Ava thought Austin Dern was spying on her, but she couldn’t be sure.

She couldn’t be sure because the whole island, an island she nearly owned free-and-clear, felt malevolent. Maybe it was because of the former asylum crumbling on the island’s tip. Maybe it was because of one infamous, murderous asylum escapee who was rumored to still be alive. Or maybe it was because Ava was afraid of the holes in her memory.

But those holes were slowly filling in, and what Ava remembered made her want to scream and scream.

And I wanted to scream, too, right from the beginning this book.

“You Don’t Want to Know” starts off with a good enough (though old-as-the-hills) premise, but it’s quickly muddied by a large mish-mash of characters that readers are obviously expected to remember.

That wouldn’t be a problem, except that author Lisa Jackson’s introductions kept coming, as I struggled to remember who was who.

That’s never good, when you’re reading a whodunit. Neither is a plot that’s too transparently solve-able. Nor is a silly pseudo-romance in the midst of terror.

Overall, I think readers who want a mild mystery for an end-of-summer diversion may find this easy to like. But if you want something sharp and tense, “You Don’t Want to Know” is a book you don’t want to read.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.