I’ve been a fan of the ‘Crime Junkie’ podcast for some time now, and when I heard its host, Ashley Flowers, wrote a book that reads like true crime, I quickly got my hands on a copy. And what do you know, I ended up flying through the thirty-something chapters because the dual POV and the dual timeline kept me hooked right from the first page.
‘All Good People Here’ is about a 25-year-old cold case, a nostalgic journalist, and a facade made of secrets that hangs over the small town of Wakarusa like a fog that never lifts. The entire read is peppered with twists, turns, and small town drama, so if you’d like to get on board the ride, hop in, I’m headed to Wakarusa.
- Author – Ashley Flowers
- Genre/Sub-genre – Mystery, thriller fiction, mystery thriller, crime, suspense, adult contemporary, adult fiction
- Content warnings – Domestic abuse (off-page), sexual assault of a minor, death of a child, relative with dementia, suicide (off-page), miscarriage, murder, kidnapping, drug abuse
- Type – Standalone
- No. of pages – 312
- First publication – August, 2022
- Goodreads rating – 3.85
- Spice meter – No spice
All Good People Here Plot Summary
When Margot Davies was six years old, her next-door neighbor and friend January Jacobs was murdered and the case was never solved. Twenty five years later, Margot is a journalist, still obsessed with the cold case.
When she comes back to her childhood home in Wakarusa, Indiana, to care for her uncle as he struggles with dementia, the unthinkable happens. A young girl just about the same age as January was when she died, is kidnapped and a cryptic message appears on the walls of January’s old home. To Margot’s dismay, no one connects Natalie’s disappearance with the 25 year-old murder, so she sets out to find the truth once and for all.
But is the town hiding a truth more sinister than she expected? Can she come to terms with every truth she uncovers, even as everything she knows turns out to be built on a lie? Let’s find out.
All Good People Here Book Review
‘All Good People Here’ follows two different timelines and two narrators. Krissy Jacobs, January’s mother, narrates the story of her daughter’s murder in 1994, and in 2019, Margot connects the past tragedy to the present when Natalie Clark is kidnapped and then killed. The two timelines and narrators (whom I wasn’t entirely sure I could trust) threw me into a loop chapter after chapter giving one answer to the price of five more questions.
The story starts with Krissy making a horrifying discovery one morning in 1994. Her daughter has disappeared and a threatening message is written in blood red paint on her living room wall: “F*ck your family…that bitch is gone…this is what you get.”
I got to the next chapter hoping for some answers, or at least some progression on the case, but the story made a time jump to 2019, introducing Margot and setting up her narrative. She’s moved back to Wakarusa to care for her uncle Luke, guilt ridden for not coming back sooner and apprehensive at stirring old memories she tried so hard to bury.
I wasn’t thrilled at not immediately seeing how January’s murder case developed, but that’s what made me read the book so fast – wanting to find out what exactly happened in between alternating chapters from the two narrators.
So in 2019, we see Margot thrown right back into the past when the news breaks, sending the whole town buzzing about Natalie Clark’s kidnapping. The silver lining is that her editor at the newspaper wants to cover the kidnapping and Margot is already in hot water because her work has been lagging the past few months with her worrying about her uncle, so this is her one chance to do a good job.
She, however, botches it. She becomes obsessed with proving there’s a connection between the two crimes that she doesn’t do a good job reporting the kidnapping. This is where I started to doubt Margot’s credibility, because if she’s not doing due diligence for her work, how can I trust her to solve a decades old cold case? I couldn’t help wondering if her hunch was correct or if it was her obsession with January’s murder that made her see things in a suspicious light.
She’s even pushed into dead ends because in this small town, the truth has a way of becoming a story, morphing with sensational details and opinions that become facts over the years. I was becoming super skeptical of not just Margot but all of Wakarusa, and Luke confirmed my suspicions:
“…this town crucified the Jacobs family all those years ago and they may not exactly like the way that looks now. So people will talk, sure, but you won’t be able to believe a word they say,” – Luke, Chapter 4
Just as he says, answers are hard to come by in the present day Wakarusa, but on Krissy’s timeline, we see things unraveling really fast. With the authorities and media flooding Jacobs’ place after January’s body is discovered in a ditch, Krissy takes us back to the summer of 1987 when she casually dated Billy Jacobs – the summer where everything changed for her.
“Just before she opened her mouth and said yes, Krissy made a silent promise. If Billy hadn’t understood that what she’d come here tonight for was money for an abortion, she wouldn’t tell him. Nor would she tell him the other thing. The cost of this marriage, she knew, would be keeping those secrets. She just hoped it would be worth it.” – Krissy, Chapter 9
We already know what happened to her and by my judgment, it isn’t worth it. We are told she’s taken her own life after a few years of being labeled a ‘bad mom’ for letting January get hurt. It hasn’t helped her case that Jace, January’s twin brother, had taken a turn for the worse after his sister’s death. He had become moody, cruel, and prone to temper tantrums, all of which leads to the whole town – and even his mom – suspecting that he had a hand in January’s murder.
So with one child murdered and one possibly complicit in the murder, Krissy’s life is hardly what she wanted it to be. She might have been a flawed character, but I couldn’t help sympathizing with her loss and pain and her attempts to protect those she loves. She’s the narrator I rooted for, simply because she was trying to do right by her family all along.
The narrator I didn’t exactly care for is Margot. Her side of the story did pick up eventually and the investigative aspect of it was interesting to read, I’ll give her that. But she kept letting me down because she dropped the ball so many times when it came to caring for Luke (especially because she kept reminding us of how heartbroken she was over Luke’s diagnosis). It was also unrealistic how she kept ignoring the threatening notes she had been getting, warning her to stay away from the mystery she was investigating.
The one time I was truly invested in her was when her uncle, in a haze of dementia, pointed a gun at her.
“The only trouble was she had no idea if he was aiming a gun at her head now because he didn’t recognize her or because he did…He’s kept his secrets from her for over two decades. She had no idea how far he’d go now in order to protect them.” – Margot, Chapter 28
Ashley Flowers throws a few surprises at us, and one of them belongs to Uncle Luke. I’d spoil it if I say more, but I was as taken aback as Margot was because I didn’t expect him to be involved in the secrets that the small town of Wakarusa kept hidden for so long.
Overall, I loved those twisty turns in the book and the suspense built up by the dual timelines because they made the mystery all the more baffling and engaging. And when the final reveal happened, I have to say my hairs stood on their ends because it was that creepy.
All that said, my feeling of being let down by the book persisted. I couldn’t sympathize with Margot as a character nor as a narrator, the investigation seemed unrealistically easy at times, and some parts that should have been explored weren’t fleshed out at all – like Natalie’s kidnapping. Worst of all though, I felt like the ending left me really unfulfilled. I get that it’s a norm in the genre to leave us hanging sometimes, but for some reason, I couldn’t get on board with Margot’s fate in the end.
But that’s not at all to say this book isn’t worth reading. The suspense hooked me enough to keep reading that I finished the book in one night, and I loved how dynamic the cast of characters were. Plus, Ashley Flowers portrayed the small town drama so well that I wished I could see Wakarusa and its ‘good people’ on screen. So if you are looking for an investigative suspense thriller centered around a small town, I can promise that ‘All Good People Here’ fits the bill perfectly.
Who Should Read All Good People Here
Fans of true crime podcasts should definitely have a go at ‘All Good People Here’ because it’s written by the host of ‘Crime Junkie’ podcast. The investigative aspect of the book really shines through, so I’d say this book deserves a chance.
I also think readers who like a good whodunnit with crime and family drama on the side would enjoy this book thanks to the dynamic characters and the intimate, small town feel of Wakarusa.
Books Similar to ‘All Good People Here’
If you want to add a few similar books to your TBR after ‘All Good People Here’, I have a couple of recommendations.
‘The Golden Couple’ is a great pick for those of you looking for an intimate suspense thriller. This novel is about a seemingly perfect couple, how their lives fall apart, and how an unorthodox therapist gets into the middle of it all. Check out my review of ‘The Golden Couple’ here!
If you want to dive into an atmospheric thriller, ‘The Guest List’ might do the trick. It’s about a wedding party that turns deadly as one of the guests turns up dead, and it’s a book that will keep you guessing until the very end.
‘All Good People Here’ by Ashley Flowers is a small town crime thriller that comes with a lot of secrets and baggage in tow. The bulk of the small town drama might be heavy, but it doesn’t take away from the suspense because we are led to read the same story from two different narrators, and the way they fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is intense and captivating.
So if you’re up for a read about facades that people put up, secrets they bury, and the truth that eventually comes out sooner or later, All Good People Here should be where you’re at.
Although the author hasn’t said anything specific, ‘All Good People Here’ has a lot of similarities with the JonBenet Ramsey case, including sexualization of a minor, the erratic brother, the strained relationship between the parents, and the small town setting.
The overarching theme of ‘All Good People Here’ is secrets of small towns, because the story begins and moves forward with lies and secrets. The book also touches on familial relationships and the impact of investigative journalism.