“Too Many Notes” Tuesday: One of Us

Posted 3 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

“Too Many Notes” Tuesday: One of UsOne of Us by Tawni O'Dell
Published by Simon and Schuster on August 19th 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, General, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 304

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dr. Sheridan Doyle—a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist—is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago. Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners' deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny—in pursuit of a killer—comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.

Great sounding synopsis, right? The biggest problem with this book is that it tries to do too much at once. Let’s lay it out:

  • The long ago, possibly unjust execution of miners that the town is still obsessed with. I felt like this is a lazy device at best, something to propel some of the motion forward that could have been done with another device in a cleaner way.
    • The town’s obsession with the gallows. Admittedly a good device for creating the atmosphere of the abandoned mining town – but again, so much time is spent on it it convolutes what the main narrative seems to be.
    • The genealogy of who’s related to what ghost of which executed miner. NOT. CLEAR. AT. ALL. (…and totally extraneous)
        • The genealogy of who’s related to the original mine bosses/who owns the gallows at what point who owns what. Yeah.
  • Dr. Danny’s friendship with a death-row inmate. Other than an attempt to provide some commentary on the death penalty and giving Danny a reason to get the hell out of dodge for a moment, this part of the narrative seemed totally extraneous.
  • The female to male transgender assistant. Being a little sensitive to how transgender folk are portrayed in literature, it doesn’t seem like O’Dell did much research on gender dysphoria. Without that research and an accurate portrayal the transgender aspect was completely unnecessary. 
  • The story/mystery of Danny’s father, mother, and dead sister. This could (should?) have been a novel in itself – it would have been a pretty good read! 
    • Rafe the detective. A bit of a mystery himself – but strong enough to tie back into the main narrative.
This could have been a really fun suspense read if O’Dell had stuck with the last bullet point, there was plenty to do with that stuff… but instead she gets bogged down in all this other stuff she’s trying to do. At times the main narrative is overshadowed and confused by the rest of the stuff happening. 
In the tradition of What Red Read‘s gif ratings I have to give this one, as Emperor Franz Joseph II says in the movie Amadeus “…simply too many notes.”
What about you, Reader? Have you read a book lately that seems overly ambitious and then fails to deliver?

April @ The Steadfast Reader


  • Sigh on the trans thing.

    You remind me that it’s been far too long since I’ve watched Amadeus. One of the professors here told me he made the mistake of showing the extended version to his class without screening it first. ha!

  • Even just YOUR notes have my head spinning, so I can’t imagine the book itself. Dittoing Monika’s trans sigh.

  • Ashley

    Ooh, ouch. It sounds like a classic case of an author populating a rich universe that needs a series, not a story. You can’t do that much at once — and more than that, you *shouldn’t*.

    Instead of giving detailed genealogies, could she have gotten to the same place by simply saying that the families had history together? Or, “They all descended from original mine owners”? Or something like that…anything really short and simple sounds like it really would have helped improve things for you. Bummer.

  • Haha, fantastic gif. It’s always disappointing when it seems like a book could have done one thing well, but instead tried to do all of the things!

  • Well boo to that. In fact I have read a book lately that tried too hard. I just had to set aside The Country of Ice Cream Star. Overly ambitious, indeed. Onward and upward, April! I hope you’re currently reading something amazing.

  • Dang. I really liked the synopsis, but it definitely seems like way too much going on at once.

  • This one failed to deliver for me, too. Nothing about this one worked for me.