Friday, May 25, 2018

"Don’t Believe It" by Charlie Donlea

Don’t Believe It
by Charlie Donlea

Don’t Believe It  by Charlie Donlea

Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

From acclaimed author Charlie Donlea comes a twisting, impossible-to-put-down novel of suspense in which a filmmaker helps clear a woman convicted of murder - only to find she may be a puppet in a sinister game.
The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history - a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.
As Sidney begins researching, she uncovers startling evidence, additional suspects, and timeline issues that were all overlooked during the original investigation. Before the series even finishes filming, public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. But as the show surges towards its final episodes, Sidney receives a letter saying that she got it badly, terribly wrong.
Sidney has just convinced the world that Grace is innocent. Now she wonders if she has helped to free a ruthless killer. Delving into Grace’s past, she peels away layer after layer of deception. But as Sidney edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career ... even her life.

Chapter 1
Hewanorra International Airport
St. Lucia
March 2017
Ten Years Later
SIDNEY RYAN FINISHED TAPPING ON HER COMPUTER, SAVED HER FILE, and folded the laptop closed. She reached under the seat and slipped it into her carry-on. The popping in her ears told her they had started their descent. She pulled a thick folder from her bag, opened it, and removed the maiden letter that had started her journey.
Dear Sidney,
It's been a while. Fifteen years? Congratulations on all your success. I've followed your career, as you can imagine, quite closely. You are a champion for those who cannot help themselves. As I'm sure you are aware, your accomplishments have echoed far beyond those who have directly benefited. For those like myself, whose fates have long ago been determined, you give hope that somehow things can still change.
I'll assume you know my story. And I hope this letter makes it into your hands. You are, quite literally, my last chance. I've exhausted the appeals process. It is different here than in the States. I've learned the St. Lucian justice system well over the last decade. There are no more loopholes to find, and no more formalities to follow. From this point forward, I can count on only one thing to help me — a re-examination of the evidence. Without it, I will spend my life here. And with each year that passes, it feels as though fewer and fewer people are looking at my case. Lately it seems that no one remembers me besides my family.
I'm writing you, Sidney, to ask you to consider helping an old friend. Of course, I understand no promises can be made. And I'm able to offer nothing in the way of compensation. Yet, I still find myself writing to you. I have no one else to ask.
My attorney and I can provide you with every bit of information about my case. Perhaps, if you look through it all, you will see what so many others have missed.
Thank you, Sidney, for anything you can do for an old friend.
Yours Sincerely, Grace Sebold
Sidney folded the letter and looked out the window. The plane was on a gentle glide and ready to set down in the ocean when a runway reached out and grabbed the Airbus A330 to pull it safely onto dry land. A five-minute taxi settled the plane on the tarmac just outside the terminal doors. Everyone onboard opened overhead compartments and gathered bags. Sidney walked through the plane's exit door and stepped onto the landing of the staircase, where the humid Caribbean air quickly worked her skin to a glistening shine. She took the stairs to the tarmac and felt the heat of the pavement rise in invisible flames around her. The camera crew sorted their equipment as she headed into the terminal. Through customs thirty minutes later, she bounced in the backseat of the taxi van as the driver navigated the rolling mountains of St. Lucia and the twisting roads that cut through their slopes.
Hills lush with rain forest filled the windows of the taxi for most of the sixty-minute ride. Eventually the driver shifted to a lower gear and the van strained to climb a steep bank. As they crested the precipice on the outskirts of the Jalousie Plantation, the ocean came into view across the valley. In the middle of the afternoon, the water carried an emerald brilliance, and from such an elevated vantage point looked almost cartoonish as it smoldered bright cobalt in the area near shore, melting to a deeper navy farther out to sea.
The driver began the descent into the valley toward Sugar Beach Resort. Contrasting the journey to this point, which had been defined by a series of steep inclines barely conquered by the taxi van's straining engine, the ride down into the valley came with the constant squeak of brakes and slow turns around hairpins. The deeper they ventured into the basin, the higher the twin volcanic plugs of Gros Piton and Petit Piton rose on either side of them. The prehistoric nature of the precipitous mountains gave Sidney the sense of heading into Jurassic Park.
Finally the van made the last turn and tall iron gates parted as they approached the entrance to the resort. The humidity again mugged her when the door slid open and Sidney climbed from the van.
"Ms. Ryan," a staff member said, extending a basket of ice-cold hand towels. "Welcome to Sugar Beach."
Sidney draped the towel across the back of her neck.
"The staff will manage your bags," the woman said in a pleasant Caribbean accent. "Your firm has already arranged check-in, so your room is waiting."
Sidney nodded and followed the woman onto a path lined by Lansan trees, the shade of which offered a reprieve from the heat. The staffer pointed out landmarks as they walked.
"The spa is that way," she said, pointing. "It's world renowned and highly recommended. Built directly into the rain forest."
Sidney smiled and nodded, surveying the treehouse–like structures built within the forest and the wooden staircases that twirled down to the ground.
The woman pointed in the other direction. "This path will take you to the beach."
Overhanging branches of palm trees cocooned the long cobblestone walkway. Their heavy fronds rustled in the ocean breeze toward the far end of the path, where a spot of bright sunshine and surf was just visible from where Sidney stood.
They made one more turn. "And here is your cottage."
The woman keyed the door and allowed Sidney to enter the posh room, the furniture of which was white and immaculate. Dark cherrywood floors shone brightly with afternoon sunlight that spilled through the windows and French doors.
"The bar is stocked with anything you might like — water, juice, and soda. Spirits as well. Your bags should arrive shortly."
"Thank you," Sidney said. She glanced at the placard outside the door: 306.
"Yes," the woman said, recognizing the question in Sidney's eyes. "This was the room she stayed in."
Sidney nodded.
"Please call if you need anything," the woman said.
"Thank you."
Sidney closed the cottage door and allowed the air-conditioned interior to cool her body and unstick her shirt from her skin. She looked around the room, moving her gaze from the shining wooden floors to the lush bathroom accommodations, to the sun-drenched patio, and finally to the plush four-poster bed, with its brilliant white comforter. She ran her hand over the thick blanket before sitting on the edge.
Ten years earlier, Grace Sebold had slept in this very room the night Julian Crist was killed.

Praise for the Book
“Donlea’s use of the documentary format helped build and maintain suspense. He tapped into the American passion for true crime to write the story and it worked well.” ~ Bea’s Book Nook
“Charlie Donlea is definitely an author to watch out for. Five stars is not enough praise for this story.” ~ Sinfully Wicked Book Reviews
“The author did a fantastic job of drawing me into the story and keeping me interested. The last sentence of the book left me hungry for more ...” ~ Book Babble
“A perfectly executed and entirely satisfying read, Don't Believe It is a gripping thriller that will blow readers away, from the first page right up to the very last words. Charlie Donlea's best book yet!” ~ Mary Kubica, author of Pretty Baby and The Good Girl

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.
Ten years ago, Grace was convicted of killing her boyfriend on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Sidney, a reporter who has gained the reputation for getting convictions overturned, decides to film a documentary on the case and travels to St. Lucia for research. It looks like Grace might be innocent, but when new information comes to light, which is more important? The ratings or the truth?
Sidney’s story on the making of the documentary is interspersed with scenes from her documentary. As Sidney herself pitches it to her network: “The episodes will be a retelling of events, as I understand them. A mix of reenactments as well as live footage of my investigation. The audience will discover what I discover as I discover it.” This format gives the narrative urgency, as Sidney is on a deadline each week to come up with the material for the next episode. The author uses multiple viewpoints to tell the story; some (like the taxi driver’s) are totally unnecessary. Unfortunately, there is also a bit of head-hopping in some scenes. The ending takes the story in a different direction to what I was expecting and, while the story is complete, it is open to the possibility of a sequel.
An engrossing read.

Favorite Quote
“Can life really be started over? Can you simply turn the page in the notebook of life that has recorded your history and start writing a fresh story?”

About the Author
Charlie Donlea
USA Today bestselling author Charlie Donlea was born and raised in Chicago. He now lives in the suburbs with his wife and two young children.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three print copies of Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea (US only).