Please note that I received this book for free via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
So I liked the general idea on how a rumor can catch fire and burn innocent people. However, I think Kara didn't go far enough with it. Also some of the book read as repetitive after a while with Joanna thinking everyone was the child killer Sally McGowan in hiding. And then we have the reveal (which was ridiculous by the way) and the book went downhill from there. I was disappointed since the first parts of the book were very well done.
"The Rumor" follows single mother Joanna Critchley. Joanna has returned to her hometown of Flintstead to raise her five year old son Alfie. Alfie was bullied in his previous school and Joanna is hoping that with her mother nearby that she will have more time for him. Joanna though feels like an outsider and starts gossiping in her book club meeting about a rumor she heard that day in order to feel closer to the other women. Apparently, someone believes that Sally McGowan, who killed Robbie Harris in 1969 is living in the town of Flinstead under a new identity. Sally McGowan was only 10 years old when she killed Harris, and it sounds like her childhood was the stuff of nightmares. Many people in the town of Flinstead are horrified that a killer could be living among them. Too soon suspicions turn to those around them with one woman bearing the fallout of being accused. Joanna feels guilty because she spread the first rumor and from there it grew. Soon after it seems a mysterious person is stalking Joanna, hell-bent on teaching her how much harm rumors can have.
I felt ambivalent and then disliked Joanna. She was hysterical through most of the book and I thought that her explanation for why she spread the rumor was lame. Also why she becomes obsessed with unmasking Sally McGowan felt odd. Joanna is also still into the father of her child, Michael and goes round and round about that. Frankly, Joanna's mother was the only one with common sense about spreading mixed signals to her son when she lets Michael stay over. Either you are together or not, don't mess with kids. Michael through luck (or plot) also happens to be an investigative journalist who wants to find McGowan in order to tell her story. So Joanna weirdly feels like she should be helping with his case though feels resentful that is the only reason why he seems to want to get back together to her. Joanna barely seems to be at work and runs around thinking every neighbor or woman she knows could be McGowan who she believes wants to hurt her for spreading the rumor.
The other women in this book are barely developed beyond Joanna's mother. Every kind of blended together and I think it's because every couple of pages Joanna believed someone else was secretly McGowan. It got old.
Frankly in that situation I would have minded my own business. McGowan was a ten year old girl being physically and sexually abused by her father. She says it was an accident that she stabbed Robbie Harris. She was locked up until she turned 18 and slipped away to make a new life. Why everyone in the town is suddenly wanting to find her and burn her at the stake definitely showed that people had zero sympathy for the character.
The writing read as flat to me after a while. I think Kara can definitely set a mood though. Some of my favorite scenes were when the author describes a house, a mood, a place that Joanna was at. I thought this would be a perfect Halloween read at times due to Joanna feeling claustrophobic and scared after she feels threatened. Also things get very repetitive with Joanna practically having a breakdown every five minutes.
The flow was initially very good, and we get hints in between about Sally McGowan written in another voice. However, that voice felt wrong after we get to the reveal so I don't know what that was even about in the end.
The setting of Flinstead made me think of Salem during the Salem Witch Trials. We have everyone under the sun being accused. I think it would have worked better to get the whole town in a panic and have more and more people accused. Just keeping it to this small circle of women didn't really work. And one wonders why McGowan would even be concerned since it seemed a very small chance she would be discovered. I thought it was lame how Kara tied up everything up. Talk about coincidence after coincidence.
The ending was a letdown. There's a small twist thrown in the last line of the novel, but at that point I didn't care at all about it.