He Started ItHe Started It by Samantha Downing
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

like many books in this ‘rona-riddled world of ours, this one’s birthday got pushed back from april to july, which is an even better time of year* for escaping into a page-turning thriller about a backstabby family and their ill-fated road trip**.

but don’t take my word for it—trust in the HOT sticker!

this is the dysfunction-laced tale of three estranged siblings who are about to inherit a lot of money. and all they have to do is fulfill the terms of their wealthy grandfather’s will—to reenact the cross-country road trip he took them on when they were kids and scatter his ashes at the end. which would be a simple enough request, and even a sweetly nostalgic one, if what went down on that trip was something any of them wanted to revisit or even remember.

AND if the will didn’t have additional, somewhat ominous fineprint stipulations disinheriting anyone who fails to complete or otherwise deviates from the original route or anyone winding up in jail before the final destination.

AND if they weren’t being followed the whole way by a menacing black truck whose occupants seem hell-bent on sabotage.

it’s a perfect tinderbox of a situation—all the expected discomfort and grumpiness of a family road trip (also i need to say here how much i LOVE this title) with layer upon layer of additional tension: three siblings who haven’t been around each other for quite a while, quickly remembering why they haven’t been around each other for quite a while, packed into a rental car with two spouses, their grandfather’s ashes, and all of their literal and psychological baggage, riddled with secrets and suspicions, reckoning with past grievances and buried resentments and that brand of emotional backsliding and regressive behavior that rears up in the presence of family members who knew you when, hypnotized by the monotony of the road, bloated with greasy fried food and alcohol and murrrrrrder

it’s funny and dark with very sharp edges, as the tales of two road trips unfold through calculating middle-child beth’s POV, who knows what she knows and suspects what she suspects and shares what she feels like sharing with the reader, who is taken on a very twisty journey—i suspected a thing, and then, as though sensing i suspected a thing (or more likely having deliberately led me to this suspicion), downing confirmed and then undermined the thing, reversed it and then reversed it again, leaving me too dizzy to focus on some of the other things going on in the periphery, catching me off-guard to my great delight.

i am being vague because i must.

if you enjoyed Knives Out, there’s a good chance you will also enjoy this toxic family reunion where seeeecrets and inheritance rekindle sibling rivalry, bring out those competitive streaks and deceit and greed and murrrrrderrrrrrrrrr and it’s all deliciously vicious and popcorny.

so, as far as that ending goes. i read this book in the Before. in the Now, the ending bothers me less. it’s an ending that matches my outlook and my expectations for what happens now: View Spoiler » for myself and my enemies, for anyone who was spoonfed a fantasy of bonnie and clyde as a tragic love story before being thrust into a museum full of bodies and bullets and blood. none of us expected this.

* inasmuch as time has meaning anymore

** imagine being confined with your family for a long time??? hahaha no but imagine if road trips could exist?


this was one of those books where i didn’t even want to stop reading long enough to take a pee break. i was completely consumed, engrossed, hearts in my eyes, neglecting all the other things i was supposed to be doing and then that ending??? I AM UNDECIDED NOW!

four stars cats for now, lemme think on it and figure it out while i’m writing the review. if i ever get caught up on reviews.

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