Review: The Girl on the Porch by Richard Chizmar

Rating: ★★☆☆☆+

Synopsis

From New York Times bestseller Richard Chizmar, author of Gwendy’s Button Box (with Stephen King) and The Long Way Home, comes a thriller that will forever change the way you look at your neighbors and best friends…

When the Tuckers’ next door neighbor mentions someone rang their doorbell late the previous night, Sarah and Kenny Tucker check their home’s security camera and discover something shocking: the doorbell ringer also visited their house and it wasn’t a teenager playing a prank, but instead a terrified young woman with a shackle hanging from her right wrist. She anxiously pressed the doorbell again and again, glancing over her shoulder as if someone was coming for her, before giving up and taking off into the dark. 

Almost overnight, she becomes known as The Girl on the Porch—and she’s everywhere. There are updates on all the local networks, national coverage on CNN and Fox News, and the video goes viral on social media. Before long, everyone has seen the harrowing security camera footage. 

Kenny and Sarah figure it’s only a matter of time before someone recognizes the woman, but as the days pass and no one comes forward, odd things begin to transpire around the Tucker family: a man intensely watches them at a restaurant and then vanishes, fresh footprints appear in the garden next to their house where no one should have been, a neighbor’s pet is viciously killed and mutilated, and a mysterious man has started following their daughter Natalie…

A rollercoaster ride of compelling twists and turns, The Girl on the Porch demonstrates why Stephen King says Richard Chizmar’s writing is “powerful” and Robert McCammon calls his work “hard-hitting, spooky, suspenseful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.”

Review

Thanks to the author and publisher for an advanced reading copy of The Girl on the Porch in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC via NetGalley did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novella.

The Girl on the Porch is an example of when a promising premise is squandered by an unsatisfying plot. I can’t say for sure that it would’ve been better had Chizmar pushed the boundaries and made it into a full-length novel, but the novella just didn’t do it for me.

Secondary characters that are supposed to be highlights of the story end up being bland and underdeveloped. The supposed “rollercoaster ride of compelling twists and turns” felt more like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Pretty straight forward with a couple of “wee” moments. It is one of those reads where you finish, shrug your shoulders, and move on to the next. You don’t really take the time to grasp what you just read because it doesn’t have any staying power.

Look. I’m quite aware that not every single book ever written over the course of history as to be hard-hitting, gritty, and have a WTF type of ending. Unfortunately, it has sort of become the norm in today’s publishing world and The Girl on the Porch happens to be an example where it was a tad too soft.

Now, let me reel you back in. Chizmar does do some great things throughout the novella. I was fairly engaged up through the halfway mark and even shouted “WHAAAA” out loud at one or two points in time. The constant whodunit mentality I had while reading is what kept me going. The good news is: you literally have no clue where the answer lies until the very end. Not that the reveal is blindsiding, but the author does a fine job at keeping it hidden. The writing is good and pretty par for the course, so not much to add there.

Overall, I am glad I gave The Girl on the Porch a shot. I still plan on reading more of Chizmar’s works as I did really enjoy Gwendy’s Button Box (which I have Gwendy’s Magic Feather on pre-order) and I’ve heard great things about Widow’s Point and A Long December.

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