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Review: `The Look-Alike’ unlikely to make lasting impression

January 31, 2020 GMT
This cover image released by St. Martin's Press shows "The Look-Alike" by Erica Spindler. (St. Martin's Press via AP)
This cover image released by St. Martin's Press shows "The Look-Alike" by Erica Spindler. (St. Martin's Press via AP)

“The Look-Alike,” St. Martins, by Erica Spindler

Beach reads, regardless of the season, have a certain formula — brisk, entertaining yet shallow plots and appealing yet superficial characters.

Erica Spindler’s seventh novel checks all those boxes. “The Look-Alike” is more than worth spending a few hours with, but the story is unlikely to make a lasting impression.

A decade ago, college student Sienna Scott was leaving a study group at the library when she stumbled over the body of Madison Robie who had been murdered just minutes earlier. Sienna worries that she may have been the real target because she and Madison wore the same type of parka. Her caring father sent her to London to escape the police investigation that seemed to be going nowhere and the paranoid rantings of her mother, Viv, who believes people are out to her harm her family and especially her daughter.

Now, the 29-year-old Sienna is back in Tranquility Bluffs, Wis., to help care for her mentally unstable mother, whose condition has disintegrated. Viv worries that someone has tried to kill her and is again convinced that her family is targeted. Sienna, now a trained chef, takes over her mother’s challenging care from her adored older half-brother, Brad, and makes plans to settle back in her hometown, perhaps opening her own restaurant. But the past resurfaces. Sienna begins to receive menacing calls, a mysterious truck driver regularly drives by her house and police reopen the murder case. As she did a decade ago, Sienna wonders whether she may have been the original target.

Despite suspicions that her mother may be right, Sienna acts on impulse, making foolish, impetuous decisions that could put her in danger. Is this really the time to get involved with a new, mysterious neighbor?

Contrived drama fuels “The Look-Alike.” It’s easy to figure out the identity of the killer, and when characters say they can’t divulge information over the telephone, it’s usually a fatal decision.

Despite its flaws, “The Look-Alike” speeds by and draws in the reader, like one of those Lifetime movies. Yes, we know it’s riddled with cliches but you have to find out what happens.