"It's Labor Day at Apache Lake when Natalie Merian climbs the ladder of the massive cabin cruiser. The noise level on board is like a concert. Most of the people, by her guess, are college age, a few years older than her at least. She tries not to be intimidated. Her friends, Mayra and Mike, follow close behind, the deck of the white and brown vessel is anchored near the north shore. The sun is shining on a cloudless day, a scorching one hundred degrees- and the alcohol seems endless, with four coolers open, frosted cans and bottles passed around with jovial acclaim."
Discretion by David Balzarini, is a thriller with supernatural elements.
Colin Wyle was in church the first time he heard her. Not a religious person himself, he was only there with his best friend, Jamal, and Jamal's family. She called herself Christel, and he was the only one who could hear her. From that moment on, she inhabits his mind, giving him advice and hints about the future.
The very first thing she helps him with is winning the heart of the girl of his dreams- Natalie Merian- the good girl all the boys want. Colin is your typical awkward teen when it comes to matters of the heart, and Christel guides him and gives him confidence. Before they know it, the two are dating.
Four months later, and we reach the events of the prologue. Colin's father takes the happy couple out for a trip to the lake in his boat. The have fun goofing around, then settle down as the day does. Colin and his father both fall asleep. When they wake up, Natalie is gone. Exactly what happened is a mystery, but they believe she went willingly. If not, the ruckus would've woken them up, plus she left her shoes, but then why not tell them?
Hours pass, which turn to days and fingers begin pointing at Colin. His father hires a PI, Jackson, to prove his innocence, and track her down. But that's easier said than done. Until, three days later, when Christel tells Colin to follow Mike onto his boat. Mike is heading out with Mayra, back to the lake, with an arsenal of weapons- intent on bringing back their friend. With Christel's guidance they find a lone boat out on the lake. When the owners spot them, they immediately draw weapons, and Colin is forced to do the unthinkable to save all their skins. When they finally get on board, they find Natalie tied to a chair, still breathing.
Cut to 15 years later. Colin is now a successful portfolio manager- dealing with stocks all day, engaged to the beautiful Marisa, and living the high-life. Everything is coming up roses, until he gets a call from Jackson. The case with Natalie was never solved- as they always believed there was something more going on. Natalie's mind completely blanked her memories of those days, so the trail went dead. But now the case is being brought to light again, and the past with it- including Colin's. Jackson believes there's a much bigger problem- girls who went missing in the same days as Natalie, have started turning up again- dead, and with a mysterious tattoo on their wrists. The same tattoo one of the kidnappers had.
Jackson is the only other person who knows about Christel, and others may not be so easily convinced of her authenticity. It's up to Colin to prove his innocence, and quickly. But why doesn't Christel want him to help Jackson? And is she really the gift he thought she was?
Discretion is a book that is hard to pin down. It starts off as a thriller- though a little slow-paced, but quickly spirals into a complicated, tangled plot involving religion- in some ambiguous way. The focus is more on Colin's lack of religion, and his friends' belief that he needs it. There is some plot around Christel, as well as the original plot with Natalie, but those are more in the background. There are a lot of random, irrelevant aspects, that don't add to the plot or story in any way, and just succeed in bogging down an already slow moving book.
The story starts off well, but loses itself around the '15 years later' mark. If the author had stuck with the original plot, the story could've been pretty good. Though I will give it this, the book is very good at creating an uneasiness. A tension surrounding Christel, and exactly what her motivations are. You can never be sure how much of the truth she is telling you. But then again, the whole book from that point on is a confused mess, one that makes it very hard to tell what's going on.
I would say the book's focus is more on good and bad, and the fine line between them. You can do both, but in the end the scales will tip more one way than the other. It comes down to the nature of temptation and addiction. Because that is what Christel is- Colin's drug. Her true 'form' is almost irrelevant. She has been in Colin's mind for so long, that he needs her, to the point where he is willing to do anything to keep her.
Like I mentioned earlier, the story becomes a little too bogged down with religion towards the end, and I'm afraid we get that rather irritating 'accepting God makes everything alright' ending- which I think is the ultimate cop-out. As though it solves everything. God and religion are not things that should ever be forced on someone. They are things you choose as an individual, and you should respect that others have the right to refuse them. Something I see often in books with Christian undertones is that the moment you let it in/convert, suddenly everything is miraculously better. That's not how it works. It's not a cure-all. What it is is a safety net-there to catch you if you fall. It's an authority, that allows people to believe that if someone does wrong, they will be held accountable for it. It is an idea- a concept. Nothing more. It changes nothing. Resolution through conversion is not resolution. Yes, it can provide comfort or strength- as many things can- but it doesn't change the reality of the situation.
The ending itself just sort of happens, and while it's written as though it's meant to be a satisfying conclusion, it is anything but. It is unbelievable to the point of ridiculousness. This is a mild spoiler, but that the book wants you to accept that one witness can bring down an entire prostitution ring led by a clearly well-established group is absurd. Especially as she is not a reliable witness- considering she was heavily drugged during her entire ordeal.
Another not very satisfying conclusion is Christel. Unbelievably underwhelming and anti-climactic. She was the main interest of this story- at least for me- her origin and motives were the main reason I got through this book, and her storyline just fades away. It's left in the background and almost forgotten.
In fact, very few of the questions raised are ever answered. Foe example, we don't even really know what happened with the mystery of Natalie.
Overall, an interesting story, that was unfortunately let down by its ending, and irrelevant tangents. I personally believe that the religious tones could have worked, if they had been a little more ambiguous. Especially for non-Christian/ religious readers. I think even Christian readers would find it a little too shoe-horned in, and nonsensical. The characters start of well, but once you hit that '15 years later' point, become bland and devoid of much personality, not to mention Colin goes through a complete 180 on his- due to Christel's guidance perhaps. A book that had a lot of potential, but unfortunately, dropped the ball.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.