Review – Just Jonathan by Donna Scuvotti

This was a new genre for me, a cosy murder mystery book, although to be honest, it isn’t that cosy. Compared to some of the stuff I read, I guess it is but don’t be fooled. There are some tough issues being played out here. Jonathan is a thirteen-year-old boy dealing with the death of his mother and his father’s subsequent alcoholism and abuse, who is witness to a horrifying scene in the forest he has escaped to. There he meets Luke, who terrifies him at first, but gradually they form the relationship Jonathan needs when his father isn’t capable of stepping up.

Add in a series of gruesome murders, which Jonathan and Luke persevere to solve, and a truly evil nemesis, and this is an intriguing story, heartbreaking at times, as Jonathan’s father veers from affection to hate for his son, depending on how much he’s drunk that day. Sometimes it’s hard to read, but I can report this does have a great ending, not something I expected, especially with the revelations about the death of Jonathan’s mother. Even if if felt a little like wish-fulfilment (especially with his dad’s recovery,) the ending felt good. Sometimes we need to know things are going to be all right. And sometimes we just have to trust that most people are innately good; they just sometimes do terrible things when they don’t mean to.

I didn’t trust Luke at first, and throughout the book he is portrayed as a character with dark secrets of his own. I dreaded that he might be the killer, who underneath all his evil is actually desperate for a normal life. I’m not spoiling anything, but the author doesn’t let the reader down. Luke does have deep-rooted problems; he’s a recovering alcoholic, he has PTSD and depression, but his loyalty to Jonathan and his care for him is incredibly touching.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages once I had started. This story gripped me from the start. Although at times the pacing felt a bit off (especially near the end, where it felt slightly rushed) it was a tense, thrilling read with real warmth and love for the characters shining through. I would definitely read another book by this author, as I loved the unexpected journey this book took me on.

BLURB

Reeling from the death of his beloved mother, at the hands of a drunk driver, thirteen-year-old Jonathan is struggling with the aftermath while living with an abusive, alcoholic father.

Past curfew one night, Jonathan, plagued by nightmares, ventures into the forest by his Pacific Northwest home, trying to escape his life at home and come to terms with his devastating loss. While wandering aimlessly, he hears a blood-curdling scream that freezes him in his tracks.

Faced with the dilemma of whether to investigate and potentially put himself in harm’s way, his adventurous spirit wins out and he stumbles upon more than he bargains for. Jonathan soon discovers that a serial killer has been running amok and using the forest as his own personal playground.

This suspenseful murder mystery will bring out a plethora of emotions in the reader, as it touches on loss, friendship, redemption and coping, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat, with twists and turns you won’t see coming. 

Published by Lady J's Pawsome Readers

As well as reviewing books, I'm a writer of romantic suspense, MM fiction and LGBTQIA sci-fi. One of the original founders of WROTE Podcast, a medium for showcasing queer storytelling in all forms.

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