In what passes for an ordinary day in a psych ward, Dr. Zoe Goldman is stumped when a highly unusual case arrives. A young African American girl, found wandering the streets of Buffalo in a catatonic state, is brought in by police. No one has come forward to claim her, and all leads have been exhausted, so Zoe’s treatment is the last hope to discover the girl’s identity.
When drugs prove ineffective and medical science seems to be failing, Zoe takes matters into her own hands to track down Jane Doe’s family and piece together their checkered history. As she unearths their secrets, she finds that monsters hide where they are least expected. And now she must solve the mystery before it is too late. Because someone wants to make sure this young girl never remembers. (goodreads.com)
I wasn’t all that impressed with THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME. It sounded far more exciting in the blurb than how the story actually played out. I wasn’t necessarily bored by it but I wasn’t really gripped by anything I was reading either. There was one moment in the book where I thought finally, something was going to happen, but it was a false alarm. That’s about as excited as I got about this one.
I haven’t read any other Zoe Goldman books and this one kept referencing an event that happened to her, I assume, in the last book and I didn’t have anything to go by with it. I got that it affected her but it didn’t detract from the story at all that I hadn’t read the other book. There was enough going on here that I was able to get a well-rounded picture of Zoe and her life without having to read back.
With that being said not a whole lot really happens in the book. She gets this patient in that starts of catatonic and then switches to having a split personality but they can’t figure out who she is. The pieces start to come together but as far as any kind of external threat there is none. Zoe studies for her RITE exams (not sure what those are), sees her psychiatrist to help her deal with her mom’s death and her ADHD, and has some discussions with her boyfriend Mike. There is literally nothing outside of her interactions with the patient in the hospital that fuel the story. It’s not intense, it’s not gripping. There’s nothing to grip.
Her new attending appears to be on shaky ground and Zoe does uncover a less than savory past around him but that’s about it. Nothing untoward, no hints at what’s going on. In reality I felt kind of blindsided by the ending. In hindsight I guess there were some hints that could have potentially pointed toward the culprit but not a lot. And again, no outside force was at all threatening Zoe. She was just having regular sessions with the catatonic/split personality patient and slowly unraveling her story as she spit it out.
Of course Zoe is set up as somewhat unreliable because she’s on probation and she comes across as erratic, especially when her meds are tweaked so people get annoyed by her. She seems incredibly insistent on her point of view while disregarding others and does some things that are entirely unethical but are wholly justified without repercussions at the end but it’s not unreliable in a way that would really drive the plot. It’s an unreliable that made sense. As someone who doesn’t know the jargon these characters are using I’m guessing that Zoe is the oddball here, judging by her previous behavior, and she needed to do more to prove herself.
THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME was just lackluster. I like suspenseful books but I also like sudoku. Both challenge my mind but when a book turns out as uneventful as a game of sudoku I just get disappointed. I couldn’t help but compare this to the Temperance Brennan books by Kathy Reichs. You have that same level of technicality with the protagonist’s job but where Brennan comes through and Goldman doesn’t is that there’s actually some thrilling going on in those books. Both take place in rather limited areas of the protagonists’ world and both are solving puzzles but there’s a difference between watching someone solve a Rubix cube and watching someone solve a Rubix cube while being shot at. It’s that external challenge that makes a book engaging for me. Without that I’m literally watching someone use Google and talk to a patient and that’s just boring.
I mean it was a decent enough story and it was mildly interesting but it’s unengaging. Zoe isn’t that great of a character to like as she comes off erratic and off-putting. There’s zero external threat until the last few chapters but even then it’s not directed at Zoe. The ending came somewhat out of nowhere and again, without that external threat, it was all rather dull. It’s was like oh, okay. Neat. Moving on. The book was just . . . bleh. I probably won’t pick up any more Zoe Goldman books if this is what they’re all like. I need more than just psychoanalyzing a patient and studying for tests in the books I read.
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.