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IT COULD BE ANYONE
by Jaime Lynn Hendricks
W.W. Norton, May 2022
312 pages
$25.99
ISBN: 1613162995


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jaime Lynn Hendricks' IT COULD BE ANYONE begins with people dancing at a wedding, the kind of wedding that people who hate the wedding industrial complex really, really hate. So far, so good. What transpires in this "novel of suspense" is far less interesting, not to mention less suspenseful. The suddenly-dead bridegroom had a peanut allergy, like so many victims of other murder stories and at least one episode of MURDOCH MYSTERIES. So convenient, that a character can be suddenly killed off by something as universally accessible as peanut oil. Also, said murder victim is a total jerk. He insinuates himself into the lives of modern, college-educated young people and utterly destroys them despite the existence of social media, which would seem to let people know they've got a psychopath in their social circle long before the introduction of peanut poison would seem to become necessary.

About those characters: several are stereotypes of self-centred young adults that are utterly unrecognizable by anyone attuned to the actual struggles of millennials. One slightly more memorable character, a young man from India who attended college in the US with the other characters, has been hiding that he isn't from a "poor village": his parents are wealthy and sent him to the United States to cover up a big secret. Does anyone really expect that international students at American colleges have grown up in abject poverty and suddenly been discovered by admissions officers? Once one starts thinking about the characterizations in IT COULD BE ANYONE, the plot's shreds of plausibility quickly fall apart. The solution to the mystery involves Vee's ethnic identity, which Hendricks does not explore in any kind of meaningful way. His Indianness is a clue, not the topic.

There's also a pregnant woman with a secret that is resolved in ways reminiscent of nineteenth and early twentieth-century fiction, which adds to the sense that this novel doesn't really engage with modernity.

Of course, all the wedding guests-slash-college stereotypes have motives to off the abominable bridegroom. The question is, who did it, and was it a collaboration or a solo act? To string out the suspense plot, Hendricks jumps around in time, shifting between the fateful wedding, years, months, days, or hours before it, and its brief aftermath. This tactic is confusing without actually creating suspense. By the end, I didn't care who committed the murder. The final third of the book was about as suspenseful as watching other people play Clue. It could be anyone, and, as John Keats famously put it, I was happy to accept its "mysteries ... without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

Rebecca Nesvet is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and co-edits Reviewing the Evidence.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, June 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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