The Personal Assistant: Sometimes Wanting to Know More Is Better Than Actually Knowing
If a book makes you want to keep reading to figure out what happens but massively underwhelms in the end, how do you evaluate its quality? If I can’t put the book down, but then want to throw it across the room, is that a good book, or a bad one?
I certainly was engaged while reading Kimberly Belle’s The Personal Assistant. The premise was intriguing; a social media influencer gets canceled for a post she didn’t write, and her life begins to spiral out of control. A dead body appears in her home. Her personal assistant goes missing. And her husband is acting suspicious. All the ingredients you need for intrigue. But for every big reveal, Belle seemed to cut herself off at the knees. The foreshadowing was far more engaging than any of the actual reveals, including some that were almost entirely disconnected to the overall point of the story.
There’s a great episode of The Big Bang Theory where Amy “ruins” Indiana Jones for Sheldon by telling him that Indy has essentially no impact on the outcome of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is fun to see the crew try to refute the claim, but in the end, they decide that the movie is great anyway, and not to worry too much about it. Well, Belle could be accused of having her main character be equally irrelevant to her story; as a matter of fact, one of the villains claims as much in the penultimate chapter of the book. Perhaps if there was enough adventure to make it worth it, she would have gotten away with the superfluousness of Alex. But, alas, despite all the promises, The Personal Assistant falls flat.
Murder mysteries are some of the most engaging books you can read. A great one makes you want to keep reading late into the night, and feel almost grateful for the incursion on your sleep. In this case, I want to send Belle a bill for the missed hours.