Review of Ditter Kellen’s The Boy in the Window
“Star Rating” – I don’t do that. It’s not fair to readers or writers. I could give both Homer’s The Odyssey and Adam’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy 5 stars – but that doesn’t mean they are equal, and it’s very possible to enjoy one and hate the other.
Instead, I’ll say this – Ditter Kellen sought to create an entertaining, exciting, fast-paced piece of mystery entertainment with paranormal and romantic aspects. She excelled at it.
Q: Did I enjoy the book?
Q: Would you recommend the book to others?
A: Yes – assuming they enjoy the genre or are wanting to try a book from the genre.
Q: Will I read more books by Ditter Killen?
A: If I find another one of a different genre where I like the premise, most likely. Because…
In Depth Review
Ms. Kellen can write a great page-turner. This book was not the genre I was expecting (I rarely read reviews [ironic I know], so I was going based on the teaser/synopsis), and it turned out the book is not a genre I’m particularly fond of – something to keep in mind with the mild negatives I’ll point out. However, I still found myself incredibly absorbed, needing to know what happened next.
Based on the psychological-thriller synopsis, I gathered it was a mystery (correct) and that we would be questioning if the main character, Jessica, was experiencing things that weren’t there (that’s where I was mistaken). There really is no question of whether or not Jessica is hallucinating – yes, she had hallucinations in the past due to grieving her son’s death (and meds), but the reader never shares the doubt her husband does about what she’s seeing – even though Jessica questions it herself repeatedly in the first 1/3 of the novel. She is sane, she’s just experiencing paranormal visions that are quickly corroborated by other characters. Because of that, I think calling this a “psychological thriller” is a slight misnomer. It’s a paranormal thriller, which I don’t consider the same thing (for full-transparency, I was expecting/hoping for a Faulkner-esque gothic element, where events could have either a natural or supernatural cause, and where we as the reader not only don’t know at the time the exact explanation but are never given it – yet, the event(s) play a key role in the novel, even though the amount of time the event(s) spends on the pages is small).
And yet, even though I do not at all care for fiction where the paranormal is a large, continual presence, this book kept me thoroughly enthralled. This, strangely enough, comes from Ms. Kellen’s deep experience in yet another genre I do not care for, but I have no doubt she excels at: Romance. Though Jessica and Owen’s marriage is supposed to be the secondary conflict of this story (it often feels like the primary), the pull of needing to know if any semblance of their life would remain intact as Jessica pursued her paranormal visions is what forced me to continue reading. And this comes from two very likeable and sympathetic characters whose relationship strain is due to extremely difficult circumstances and clumsily trying to do the right thing. Neither character is mean-spirited nor petty/vain.
Though as a male reader I felt Owen to be slightly flat (his conflict is complicated – and therefore so are his actions – but the character is not; he is the dutiful, loving, but overprotective and misunderstanding husband), his simplicity undeniably has a charm to it, and the fact that he and Jessica loved each other and are both trying to navigate their lives and their marriage through both their own personal tragedy and now this murder-mystery Jessica has gotten herself caught up in makes the reader root for them.
Basically, for me, this novel managed to take two genres I don’t care for (Paranormal Fiction and Romance) and combine them with one that I do enjoy (Mystery) for a unique blend that I found quite enjoyable. Normally, the large impact of the paranormal would ruin a Mystery for me. But the sympathy I felt for Jessica and Owen (Romance) as she pursued her visions kept me from hating its role in this one. Likewise, the need to find the truth (Mystery) being the primary external conflict allowed me to
bear enjoy the love story of Jessica and Owen.
In conclusion, here are my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of The Boy in the Window:
Sympathetic and strong lead character in Jessica
Easy to read
The only glaring mistake I saw was a couple of redundant sentences in the last half of the book when trying to switch back and forth between multiple viewpoints, and personally something I blame the editor for more than the author – not because the author is blameless, but this is literally the sort of thing an editor is paid to find and help fix.
There were only two other things that bothered me, but they weren’t necessarily mistakes. First, the move to Florida (at the beginning of the novel and necessary to get to the main conflict) is sudden, and Jessica has obviously had some significant personal growth we did not get to see. At the time it was jarring, but we are given a brief synopsis in the following chapter. While that did fix the jarring issue, I couldn’t help but be a tad disappointed we didn’t actually get to experience this growth with the characters. I also think it would have helped readers like Owen a bit more. We are going to see him make a ton of mistakes, and seeing him not only try, but actually succeeding, in helping Jessica reach a better place before all those mistakes would both make him more enjoyable and give Jess a stronger reason to stay with him beyond duty, guilt, and wanting to recover their happiness from over three years ago.
The other was the twist ending. MILD SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS PARAGRAPH (I won’t give away who did it [though I will say gender], but I will say some things that will clear some people you might be suspecting). Don’t get me wrong, I love a twist ending, but while some people enjoy an ending that comes crashing out of nowhere, I personally like to feel like the author was dropping hints the whole time. I actually thought Ms. Kellen was and had a few suspects in my mind, but from the moment we are given our first clue of who is ultimately to blame (and that Jessica is in danger) until that information is confirmed is one chapter. At that point, the only mystery is whether she’ll survive. But, like I said, this is a personal preference. The earlier breadcrumbs weren’t without merit, but the big reveal is not hinted at until right before it happens. At the same time, it didn’t break or remove all meaning from the earlier parts of the book. So, this wasn’t bad writing, just a matter of taste. If you like being completely surprised, you’ll love the ending. If you feel an author should be dangling the answer right in front of you but just out of reach the whole time, you’ll be slightly disappointed – but not terribly, you’ll still probably have read the last half of the book without coming up for air.
Any other qualms I had are more of just a natural product of the genre, not anything to do with Ms. Kellen’s writing. For example, Mysteries need to be fast-paced, which as I said is a strength of this book. The sacrifice is often that secondary characters are one-dimensional. But the Queen of Mystery herself, Agatha Christie, had simple characters except for her leads. Remember that my first love is Fantasy, where we get pages and pages of information on every piece of minutia, and we know every part of every character’s life like they were the children of parents recording their entire lives on camera. Of course, keeping up with all of that information can be exhausting even for a reader, so a thrilling, fast whodunnit is always a nice change of pace.
So in conclusion, if you enjoy either Romance, Paranormal Fiction, or Mystery/Thriller, I would highly recommend Ditter Kellen’s The Boy in the Window. I couldn’t put it down. What more could I ask for in my first purchase from an indie author?