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Beyond Billicombe Paperback – September 22, 2012
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About the Author
Sherry Chiger lived for three years in North Devon, the area of England where "Beyond Billicombe" takes place. A writer and editor, she’s worked for and had articles published in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. She’s also the author of two nonfiction children’s books. Born in Philadelphia, she lives in Litchfield County, CT, with her husband, their daughter, and their dog.
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Perhaps because of the foreboding cover photograph, I was expecting this to be more of a suspense novel than it turned out to be. Chiger reveals one amazing piece of information early on, yet insists that her character conceal another, although the eventual revelation falls flat in terms of plot advancement. At times I felt that Chiger wasn't confident enough in her storytelling abilities to realize that most readers would have long since perceived what she presents as new information; it was at places like this that I felt a good editor could have made a huge difference in the pacing of the story with just a couple major changes. But this is a first novel, with the rough edges that are part of the pleasure of discovering a new voice.
The strongest parts of the novel were not plot-driven, but involved Chiger's interesting choices for her two main characters. Suzanne is a 21-year-old actress who has been on a successful TV series, and the author offers nice insights into the world of professional acting without a trace of either romanticism or cynicism. If Suzanne seemed at times far too grown-up and organized for her age, there were good reasons for this. And the ongoing hell of Richard's come-and-go amnesia, involving losing chunks of time and "waking up" in new places and situations with no memory of how he got there, is presented beautifully. The temptation would be to get him into scrapes and then watch him extricate himself; Chiger resists this admirably.
BEYOND BILLICOMBE will interest romance fans as well as mystery readers. It reminds me a bit of the early Margot Livesey, as well as of Kate Atkinson's and Susan Hill's detective series. Sherry Chiger is a writer to watch!
This is a fairly short read, but the characters were very well-developed. Suzanne and Richard were by no means perfect, but you couldn't help but want the best for them. As Suzanne tried to figure out what happened to Jax, I thought Chiger painted a really vivid picture of the underbelly of Billicombe.
The plot moved at a great pace as well, though the ending was a little predictable. However, it didn't matter because the atmosphere was very vivid and the story was more about the characters than the plot. A good first novel.