Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Book Review: THE SWAP by Nancy Boyarski

The Swap

Title: The Swap
Author: Nancy Boyarski
Light Messages Publishing
February 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

When Nicole Graves arranges a summer-long swap of her Los Angeles condo for a London couple’s house, she thinks it’s the perfect arrangement. She’s always dreamed of seeing the real London; she’s also hopeful the time away with her husband Brad will be good for their troubled marriage.

But things don’t turn out the way Nicole expects: The Londoners fail to arrive in L.A. and appear to be missing. Then people begin following Nicole and making threats, demanding information she doesn’t have. Soon, Nicole realizes she’s in serious trouble––but she can’t get Brad or the police to believe her.

When the confrontations turn deadly, Nicole must either solve the case or become the next victim. 

My thoughts:

It all sounded good in theory: when Nicole’s husband Brad is offered a short working stint in England with an IT company over summer, Nicole thinks that it would be the perfect opportunity to break routine and rekindle their marriage. The plan is to swap homes with Frederick and Muriel Lowry, a couple Brad has had contact with through his work. However, soon after their arrival in London, Nicole is having serious doubts as to whether this was a good idea. Brad is more distant and distracted than usual, and she is experiencing  some strange incidents in the Lowry’s home, which scare her. When she is threatened by thugs looking for the Lowrys, who supposedly owe money to someone who will not stop at anything to get even, she discovers that the couple have never actually  arrived in the US as arranged. Worst of all, Brad is refusing to take her seriously, putting her fears down to jetlag and paranoia. Soon things escalate and Nicole is finding herself on the run – from the thugs, the police and her husband.

The premise of the story – a house-swap gone terribly wrong – was intriguing and I found myself quickly drawn into the book as our unsuspecting couple arrives in London only to find that the house is not what they were expecting. However, the rest of the book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was interesting to find out that the author, Nancy Boyarsky, has a background as editor and writer of textbooks and political articles, because it is obvious that she can write well. However, I think that this explains some of the problems I had with the story – at times it read a bit too factual and dry, with stilted dialogue, telling instead of showing and inconsistencies with character development. This may just be due to The Swap being a debut novel in quite a different genre than the author is used to.

Personally, I also felt that Boyarski was trying to pack too many twists and turns into the story (Nicole is like a little spinning top – she never stays in one place for longer than 5 minutes), which at times made it choppy and frustrating to follow. Then, running out of time, there were whole “summary” paragraphs condensing numerous events into a few explanatory sentences, rather than letting them play out. Despite plenty of action and a fairly tense cat-and-mouse game, I felt a bit put off by some clichés used in character development, and found it difficult to connect with Nicole, who I felt lacked emotional depth (as did her relationships). Seeing that this is the first of a series, I am hoping that Nicole’s character will evolve over time and develop a bit more personality. As long as Nicole can pull off the plucky female investigator role, I think the series has a lot of potential. As for now, I remain sitting on the fence ...

Quotes I liked:

With Brad, activities as routine as finding their luggage and getting through customs were competitive sports.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Image result for 3 stars

If you find the premise of a house swap gone wrong intriguing, you may also enjoy:
Her Every Fear Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson
One of my favourite reads for 2016!

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