The Stepfamily by Bonnie Traymore

The Stepfamily (Silicon Valley Series #1)The Stepfamily by Bonnie L. Traymore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laura is the stepmother to two children from her husband Peter’s first marriage. His first wife died by suicide more than ten years ago. Or was it suicide? That’s the first big mystery. Then there are tensions at work for both Laura and Peter with a financial crime lurking in the past. Then it looks like someone cut the brake line on Laura’s car. Is someone out to kill her? This doesn’t even touch on the possible frictions and resentment a stepmom can face from children still loyal to their mother.

The author does a good job of ramping up the suspense. It is properly subtitled “A psychological thriller.” I enjoyed the book enough to recommend it. Having said that, it suffers from some self-published book flaws like poor proofreading. I also didn’t like the chick lit vibe, e.g. the constant descriptions of female characters’ outfits and even toenail color (plum). I did like the local references as I live in the area. Chef Chu’s is the best Chinese restaurant around.

The author shows a good deal of knowledge about tech startups and Silicon Valley culture and business, but she is clearly not up to speed on police procedure or investigative matters. That’s why I say it’s a psychological thriller, not a detective novel. She refers to the the Santa Clara County Police as investigating the case. Sorry, no, there is no such agency. If a crime took place outside a city, it would be investigated by the county sheriff, otherwise by the police agency for that city. Los Altos Hills, Laura’s location, uses Los Altos Police for most detective work although the sheriff’s office might assist on a possible homicide. Worse, though, is the private eye she conjures up who seems to have magical powers to find out anything. As a retired FBI agent and attorney, I can tell you it doesn’t work that way. For example the P.I. searches for someone using facial recognition. How? That requires a network of hundreds or even thousands of cameras, very sophisticated software and hardware, and a series of good photos of the person sought. He had none of that and neither does any law enforcement agency in the county. He also found out about an affair from years ago with no indication that either of the lovers told him about it, or for that matter, any explanation at all of how he did. Admittedly, I’m a bit picky about that stuff because of my background, but these eye-rolling mistakes have the effect of taking the reader out of the credibility of the story. There’s also a major timeline error at the very end. Even so, I found myself engaged with the story and continually wanting to read the next chapter. At least she stuck to the old rule, “write about what you know.”

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