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  • Mandy McHugh

Cul-de-sac, Joy Fielding: A Review

I've read many of Fielding's books in the past, so I was really looking forward to Cul-de-sac, especially with that eerie cover and excellent summary.

Told in multiple POVs, Cul-de-sac follows a group of neighbors as they navigate their personal hurdles before the upcoming Fourth of July BBQ. Struggling with separate issues, their lives will overlap on one fateful night as a shot rings out, changing everything in their quiet cul-de-sac forever. I liked this book. To start, I'm a big fan of multiple narrators. Done well, it has the ability to heighten the tension in a story or provide complementary details that add insight or intrigue. Fielding navigated the voices well, and I didn't think there was much overlap between mannerisms, turns-of-speech, or characterization. That kept the narrative interesting and well-paced, even with many working parts. I had a difficult time with the overall rhetoric of the book, though, a detail I couldn't quite get past to call this one a home run for me. At times, the characters felt a bit like exaggerated tropes, falling solely in their stereotypical zones. A trope exists for a reason, so that in itself wasn't a dealbreaker for me, but I wanted more depth and layers. The morals were a little heavy-handed, with clear rhetoric involving gun violence, domestic abuse, mental health, and drug use. If these had been nuanced, I think it would've worked better for me, and I can still see many readers enjoying the straight-to-the-point, on-the-nose trajectory; but for me, it was a bit of a miss. Overall, Cul-de-sac is a slow-burning suburban drama that tackles relevant social issues over the backdrop of a Florida community. I'd recommend to readers looking for a light mystery with dramatic elements, character-driven narratives, or a beach read. I think Aiden and Heidi were the most interesting relationship, but I really would've loved to see these characters fleshed out a bit more beyond their expected traits. Thank you to Ballantine and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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