"The Stories You Tell" by
In my entire 36 years on this planet, I have only had one one-night-stand(ish) experience
I know... it’s surprising because I make bad choices like it's my fuck job. But, what can I say, I married young.
Anyways, coincidentally enough, this one experience took place in Columbus.
I had gone to a house party on OSU campus and, after drinking too much Arbor Mist — I was 20, leave me alone — and smoking too much pot, I agreed to head off with a complete fucking stranger.
Basically, I'm lucky I am still alive because I, too, watch Dateline and know how badly this all could have worked out. But those substances are each inhibition inhibiting. And, when working in concert, they are basically inhibition eliminating, so I went.
We went to his sketch apartment where he proceeded to read me a poem in Russian — I'm pretty sure he was a Russian poetry major, which is super fucking marketable — then we made out and I went home.
It was not my finest hour.
But at least there was no rebound.
Once it was done, it was done.
Such was not the case for Andrew, the brother of the protagonist of The Stories You Tell, who received an unexpected visit from a former fuck buddy, setting off a chain of events that would propel this book forward.
It’s the middle of the night when Andrew receives a visit from a former flame, Addison, with whom things didn’t end rosily — as things rarely do when you’re fucking around in your 20s. As soon as he answers the door, he knows immediately that something is off.
She’s acting jumpy.
And before he can figure out why, she gets spooked and runs off into the night
He immediately calls his sister, Roxane, a freelance private investigator and full-time badass.
Roxanne — who is wide awake despite the fact that she should be engaging in a post-coital snuggle — agrees to help, heading over to her brother’s apartment in the dead of night to, once again, come to the rescue.
After Andrew relays the story of the clearly odd encounter to Roxane, she agrees to track down Addison and make sure she’s okay.
When Roxane starts to look into the matter the next day, however, she finds that answers aren’t particularly forthcoming.
The more she digs, the more she thinks that maybe Andrew wasn’t overreacting.
Maybe something very serious has happened to Addison.
And maybe she is the only person who can uncover the truth before it’s too late.
The strength of this particular novel wasn’t the narrative itself.
The narrative was fine.
It was clean and straightforward and satisfying.
And it was linear, which made you feel like you’re riding along with Weary as she traverses metropolitan Columbus to sniff out clues.
The plot will keep lovers of mystery guessing and will particularly delight armchair sleuths who always wanted to be a PI, but weren’t willing to flip off the Netflix and part with the sofa long enough to hit the hard streets.
Really, though, the ultimate strength of the novel was the protagonist, Roxane Weary, with whom I fell immediately in love.
My infatuation with this character was likely due to the fact that I saw so much of myself in her.
I mean, I’m neither particularly brave nor particularly observant.
And I drink coffee — not tea — in unhealthy quantities.
And I hate talking to strangers — especially sketch looking ones — which seems to be like 97.3% of a PI’s job.
But, deep in our soul, we are the same fucking person.
World worn and acerbic and sarcastic.
Prone to dropping one liners even though it’s clear that the conversation partner won’t pick up on the humor.
Eager to correct grammar mistakes or call out shitty metaphors regardless of how many friends we lose doing so.
Roxane is the type of no-nonsense person most people would want to hang out with, which makes her naturally endearing and all but ensures that readers become immediately invested in her success and, by connection, the novel itself.
Another thing that I — an Ohioan born and raised — simply must mention is the heavy presence of actual Columbus references.
Anyone who lives in — or has ever spent any time in — Columbus will certainly be delighted by the random throw-away mentions of characteristically Columbus locations.
Case in point: Waterbeds 'N Stuff — A Columbus — and neighboring suburbs — classic that somehow manages to stay in business despite having a clientele comprised seemingly exclusively of stoners and broke teenagers.
Note - I distinctly remember, in my youth, long before I even knew what weed really was, commenting that the store should really be called Waterbed ‘N Stuff because it was one token waterbed — usually worse for the wear — surrounded but a profundity of stoner paraphernalia — though, at the time, I would have said it was just "stuff hippies liked"... which, you know, isn’t not true.
Whether it was a result of the fact that I grew up in a suburb of Columbus, or simply because I adored the protagonist, this novel felt warm and comfortable and familiar.
Which isn’t what you would expect from a novel that prominently features murder.
Lepionka has a way with words that is oh so satisfying and managed to build a brash, brave and realistically flawed protagonist who I simply couldn’t get enough of.
This novel — the third featuring this protagonist — easily earns 4 out of 5 cocktails.
I think this is the first time I’ve ever read a book set in Columbus. What books have you read that are set in or around your hometown? Tell me about them in the comments, below.
And moving right along! Want to see what’s next on my TBR? Follow me, here.