Books,  Reviews

Family history mystery in rural Colorado


The House on Seventh Street
by Karen Vorbeck Williams


Last week I posted a mini-review about The House on Seventh Street. After an eight-hour drive, I finally finished the audiobook and am here to tell you that it was worth the wait.

Engaging Narrative

Karen Vorbeck Williams’ story provides great entertainment for a long drive. The mystery of who is robbing and threatening Winna leaves you enthralled and anticipating the next chapter.

In the mini-review I mentioned that the chapters alternate between present day (late 1990s) and earlier generations of Winna’s family (1940s and earlier). This narrative device draws in the readers and reveals a side to Winna’s grandmother that she discovers over the course of the story. I enjoy knowing more than the characters sometimes in a mystery and Williams gives the reader just enough to let you think you have the pieces of the puzzle without revealing enough to let you solve it.

Unfortunately the alternating chapters diminish as the story progresses. As we come closer to discovering the culprit, the historical chapters fade away and the present becomes the focus. Although I was sad to lose the historical narrative it is an understandable narrative shift. All is not lost though, as Winna routinely has flashbacks to her childhood even at the end of the story.

Dynamic Characters

With the loss of historical chapters, I lost direct contact with the character I found to be the most dynamic — Juliana, the grandmother. However, the other female characters in the book do become more complicated and interesting as the story progresses.

Winna’s high school years introduce a twist to her past and present relationships that was not readily apparent in the beginning. Diving into Winna’s romantic history provides a nice parallel to the mystery surrounding her grandmother Juliana’s lost love. All this romance is complimented by the strengthening of familial relationships beyond death, as Winna and her sister Chloe connect with their grandmother and their father through letters, memories, and mysterious jewels.

Slow, but steady read

The House on Seventh Street is worth the read (or listen) if you’re in the mood for a mystery that explores the depth of family deception and bonds. Take note, though, it is not a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Although I enjoyed The House on Seventh Street and found it to be a great audiobook for a drive, the pacing of the story was a tad slow for me. When I was only a quarter of the way through the book I understood the plot was developing and appreciated the length it took to set the stage. Yet, even when the robberies and almost-lethal accidents occurred, the story never picked up.

The entire book I anticipated a big reveal and conclusion, even if it had nothing to do with the culprit. There were various reveals, some more surprising than others, but they all felt anti-climatic. Even the arrest of the culprit seemed to occur as an after thought in the story. The House on Seventh Streeconcluded like a piano chord fading into silence rather than with the emotional denouement of other mysteries I’ve enjoyed. The story ends well enough and it is an ending that satisfies the plot and the reader, but it just happens so unassumingly you have to ask — that’s it?

In spite of this criticism, I do recommend The House on Seventh Street audiobook to anyone looking for some road trip entertainment. It’s a story that will help you get through many hours in a car by yourself.

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