The Rose Diary by Curtis Maynard ☆
Let me start off by saying I would give this book no stars if I could. It is truly, truly awful.
I belong to an IRL mystery/thriller book club and, as you can probably guess from previous posts, the books that are chosen each month usually are Basic White Dude thrillers a la James Patterson. This month, one of the members chose a book by a local author who is actually a friend of her husband. It is…not good. I honestly can’t wait to see what she thinks about this book, if she found it as awful as I did.
Why is this book awful, you may ask? So many reasons.
The first reason is that this book is only very lightly edited, if it was ever edited at all. There are typos on almost every page. The misspellings are pretty bad – there are 3 instances where the word “dairy” is written instead of “diary” (y’know, the main focal point of the mystery). The main character’s name is misspelled TWICE.
It doesn’t just need a spellchecker – the verbiage reads as very cheesy and the dialogue is very unrealistic. The plot needs some work as well – it doesn’t flow from one point to another the way a mystery should. It meanders along, stopping here and zipping past over there.
The premise needs work as well. The main idea is that the main character, a 12-year-old girl named Jacqueline, has a sister named Sandra who died in her sleep and she takes it very badly. She dies her hair black and starts acting out at her parents. She starts wearing only black clothes, where before she wore rainbow colored clothes. Her parents make her see a psychiatrist, which is just the end of the world. THEN, she walks into her sister’s bedroom and finds her diary. It’s blank inside, but writing mysteriously appears that tells Jacqueline that her sister was murdered! By poison! And it’s up to Jacqueline to find out whodunit and why.
Okay, on its face this is not a bad idea. The ghost in the diary thing is pretty cheesy, but we’re not unused to young sleuths. See the Flavia de Luce novels, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Bobsy Twins, etc. The execution is…not good.
The way Sandra’s “haunting” is handled is very ham-fisted. We first get her writing in the diary, then we have her manifest in front of Jacqueline, which causes her to faint. THEN, to explain this whole premise, we have a random side character that died in chapter one show up to info dump. He shows up as a ghost and explains that Sandra died holding the diary so it technically exists in both this world and the afterlife, so she can write in it in the afterlife and it shows up in our world. Then he disappears and doesn’t come back for the entire book. He basically existed to info dump and leave.
Jacqueline bumbles around and looks for clues on who could have poisoned her sister. She suspects her dad because he had a $100,000 life insurance policy on Sandra, but I mean, what’s $100,000 going to get you in this day and age? He would have needed to have at minimum $1 million before it would make it worth all the trouble of murder.
Meanwhile, Jacqueline has been going to therapy and has started to trust her psychiatrist. She decides to show her psychiatrist the diary to convince her she is telling the truth about Sandra and the diary. Of course, the psychiatrist doesn’t believe her until words appear in the diary in front of her eyes. She then calls the police and a detective shows up at her office. He’s one of those grizzled career detectives that every cheesy mystery must have. He, for some reason, agrees to look into the case, based purely on a haunted diary and the word of a psychiatrist and a 12-year-old girl.
It’s here that we get to the heart of the matter. We’re working our way to the part that pissed me off the most.
Sandra had a crush on Jacqueline’s best friend’s older brother, Eric. He’s a typical annoying older brother type, who lives to torment his little sister and her friend. He does typical annoying older brother pranks, that are annoying but ultimately harmless. It turns out that Sandra turned Eric down when he asked her to the dance right before she died, and he was pretty upset about it. He wrote bad poetry about it and vented his frustration in writing, which you know you should never do. Because a grizzled old detective might get a tip from a prepubescent girl and search your room, thereby making you a suspect in a murder investigation. The detective asks Jacqueline if Eric could be the type of person who could poison Sandra, and the damning evidence that he could have done it is that he put some softened chocolate on the floor for Jacqueline to step in and pretended she stepped in dog poop. Also, he once hugged her after football practice, when he was extra smelly, just to make he smell bad too. Obviously, this boy is murderer material.
ANYWAY. Eric is arrested on suspicion of murdering Sandra. BUT WAIT – Sandra writes one more diary entry: “Save Eric. Not guilty.”
I hate everything about this ending. Apparently, according to Goodreads, there will be a sequel, currently titled “The Final Chapters of the Rose Diary” (snerk). You gotta be freaking kidding me with this – you mean I slogged through this mess, I suffered, only to not even get an ending?? It just stops in the middle? And you want me to buy another book just to find out how it ends? No thanks. Luckily this book is only $0.99 in the Kindle store, so I’m not out much money, but I spent actual hours of my life reading this mess, and I didn’t even get a satisfying ending.