I expected to like this one a lot. Locust Lane is described in the book blurb as “a taut and utterly propulsive story about the search for justice and the fault lines of power and influence in a seemingly idyllic town.”
The story is set in motion when a young woman, Eden, is found dead in her home in an upscale greater-Boston suburb. This is the seemingly-idyllic town in the blurb, with wealthy tech bros and trophy wives and high school kids full of promising futures. Eden, though, wasn't really part of that world. This is an especially tragic murder, because it sounds like Eden was dealing with a lot of personal struggles before her death, but we don’t really meet her as a character. Three kids from the rich part of town were partying with her… well, first they all insist they weren’t, then that they were but there wasn’t any drinking, then that they were drinking but a stranger must have come in after they left, etc. I wasn’t really a fan of the pacing, it didn’t feel suspenseful. I felt like I read 10,000 pages in which each of the three teenagers insisted it wasn’t them and then gave one more detail about that night. There were endless scenes of characters refusing to tell other characters anything, and it just took ages. I probably should have stopped here when I noticed I was picking up my phone to check Insta and my games while I was reading this book.
I felt like there weren’t enough surprises to make this feel like a thriller or a mystery. From the beginning, readers know that Jack is rich and cruel, his girlfriend Hannah will do anything he wants, and his best friend, Christopher, is bullied and teased by him. And then, the story unfolds kind of as you expect. There aren’t any big shocks with the evidence, either.
There are some references to The Scarlet Letter in Locust Lane, and I thought that was appropriate, because I felt the same letdown in the conclusions of both. The Scarlet Letter is a lot of words for Hawthorne to reach the not terribly surprising conclusion that maybe people who call themselves good Christians aren’t always moral. Locust Lane was the same — a lot of words to draw the not terribly surpising conclusion that money means a different set of rules and consequences. It’s not a new idea, and the book doesn’t really explore further. I’ve enjoyed murder mysteries where privilege, money, and connections play into the solution (The It Girl and The Lake of Dead Languages come to mind), but this didn’t work for me.
The ending of Locust Lane is weirdly unsatisfying. This was an odd novel where I found I cared less and less about the characters as the story went on, but I still wanted some resolution of the main mystery. Oddly flat novel where neither the murder or the privilege that led to the murder are really investigated.