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North of Montana

All over my paperback copy of April Smith’s North of Montana, there are reviews mentioning how “breathless” the novel is, how it “zips along”, and how it’s a “page-turner”.

What did I think?

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Ana Grey is an FBI agent dealing with a sexist boss. She makes a great bust, but the aforementioned boss curtails her much-deserved promotion. She ends up having to prove herself on a high-profile case about an iconic actress claiming she became addicted on prescription drugs because of a deviant doctor. (Quite the hot topic lately, isn’t it?)

But while investigating the case and trying to please all parties involved, Ana is faced with sudden questions of her childhood. Long faded memories begin to surface, and a woman claims that a recent shooting victim was her cousin. A woman she’s never met. A woman she is apparently supposed to be grieving. Juggling the two proves to make both more difficult.

Thing is, I can’t say I agree with the super-positive snippets all over the front and back cover.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually liked the book. The last page won me over with Ana’s character and her personal identity issues.

But was it a thrilling whodunit? Was it a fast-paced mystery? Was I breathless to turn the next pages?

None of those words really express, to me, what North of Montana was.

This was a character-driven story, very well done and thought out. Ana was made to be three-dimensional and certainly not perfect. Her family life and almost child-like need for approval from her grandfather was compelling, and her resurfacing recollections were sometimes disturbing, and always magnetic.

But her investigation felt like an afterthought to me. It was uninteresting and seemed almost like filler to me. I’m sure there are many people that found it gripping and a page-turner, but I didn’t. The parts focusing on her job and her case crept along at a slow pace, and I couldn’t help but begin to skim over those paragraphs and get to what I considered the “good parts”. Which was, in my opinion, a patiently plotted, slow reveal of Ana’s personal life.

Something those reviews didn’t really allude to, which could have possibly led me to wrong expectations. Who knows?

So, I’m left feeling mixed feelings. Ana is a compelling character, likable and smart, and where she was left in the novel was certainly alluring. But her work life? Yeah, I could go without. Except for very few exceptions, I found it tedious and far too monotonous.

Since at the top of the front cover it says “The First Ana Grey Mystery”, I can’t help but be interested in what comes next. However, I can’t help but hope that either there is no “mystery” in the traditional FBI sense, or it is written in a much faster paced, suspenseful manner – despite the reviews declaring this novel was written so!

But there ya go. We all have different opinions, don’t we?

Which is why I encourage you to read North of Montana for yourself!


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