A good thriller can be tough to put down, and a great one stays with you for a long time. As readers, we’re always searching for that next great literary fix, and usually end up going through a number of mediocre offerings and downright duds along the way. I know I have, in both my personal life and during my time as a reviewer. Thankfully, though, the last book I was asked to review didn’t turn out to be a disappointment at all.

The book in question is Are You Sara? by S.C. Lalli. It’s a forthcoming, summertime, release from a Canadian author who previously published romance titles under her full name: Sonya Lalli.

I hadn’t heard anything about this mysterious thriller, or its author, until I saw it listed on a review copy request form. I was having a hard time choosing what to request, but became really curious after reading the synopsis of this particular narrative. That led to a request, an appreciated approval and this review. In fact, Are You Sara? is now my 20th completed book of 2022, and was one of my fastest reads.

Are You Sara? centres upon two women who share the same name, with those being Sarah Ellis and our main character, Saraswati (‘Sara’) Bhaduri. In addition to sharing a first name, the two also look and dress alike sometimes, which plays into the premise of this particular story.

One fall night, near the start of a new school year, New England law student, Sara Badhuri, is told to deal with a drunk girl who’s passed out in the washroom of the bar she works at. After begrudgingly accepting the order from her downright rude boss, Sara enters the lavatory to find ‘Ellis’ passed out on the floor, with her head resting on a toilet. It’s clear that the young, twenty year-old, woman has had too much to drink and is in need of assistance, so Sara wakes her up and assists her out of the bar’s back door. It doesn’t take long for young Sarah Ellis to come to, though, and the two strike up a quick friendship with the help of a joint. Afterwards, they each decide to call a ride using an app that is simply referred to as ‘Ride.’ What happens next is the crux of this story.

Due to her inebriation, Ellis ends up taking Saraswati’s Ride, and vice versa. This leads to Saraswati being kicked out in a rich neighbourhood that is far different from her own, which people refer to as being a kind of local ghetto, where all the drug dealers (and seekers) go. Stoned and confused, she gets out of the car and doesn’t know what to do, eventually deciding to walk the several miles home to her shabby basement apartment. However, upon nearing her home, she sees police activity and is informed that someone was murdered just outside. That person is, of course, Sarah Ellis.

Who would want to kill Sarah? Was it someone she knew, a random attack, or some sort of mugging gone wrong? Or did they wish to kill Saraswati instead? Therein lays the mystery.

Although the majority of Are You Sara? is told in first-person from Saraswati’s perspective, it does occasionally flash back to electronic journal entries made by Sarah Ellis in the months leading up to her death. As such, the reader gets a glimpse at the lives of both women, who may not be as innocent as they seem(ed). It all remains pretty interesting, and is easy to follow throughout.

While it may not seem like the compliment it is, I must say that Are You Sara? by S.C. Lalli was one of the easiest reads I’ve had in some time. I appreciated that, because it’s been hard to lose myself in things in recent years. I got sucked into the mystery from the start, and enjoyed devouring the first one hundred pages while I was out one night. Then, I found myself looking forward to reading more upon waking up the next day, because I wanted to find out what happened.

That said, this particular book went places I never expected it to, including down some rather dark avenues. Thus, I must warn anyone reading this to go in knowing that there are some triggers to be found within.

The book that I started reading became something much darker over time, although it still retained its core mystery and handled things well. I did, however, find that my immersion in the narrative dropped a bit over time, due to a lot of the story centering on Saraswati’s questionable history and her family’s issues. In fact, certain things, and political agendas, were repeated more than once. I’m not saying I disliked the book because of its left leaning message, or that I completely disagreed with the author, but the ‘hit you on the head with my message’ approach hurt things more than it helped. Sometimes less is more.

The writing, itself, was quite good. It was easy to read and follow, and some parts were memorable. For a first crack at a thriller, it’s a very solid effort overall. I would definitely read more from this author, although romance isn’t really my thing.

If you’re looking for a good thriller to read near the end of this coming summer, Are You Sara? by S.C. Lalli is a definite candidate. Although its first half was better than its second half, it was a very pleasant surprise overall and something I’m glad that I requested. It was a dark, interest-piquing and pretty well-written read.

This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy that we were provided by HarperCollins.

 

 

Are You Sara? by S.C. Lalli Review
Are You Sara? is a good, easy-to-read, thriller. It's definitely worth checking out if you're in the market for one.
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