*This review will contain spoilers!*
‘Betrayal’ is the second novel in the Empty Coffin Series by Gregg Olsen. If you haven’t read ‘Envy’ I would definitely recommend reading that one before this one; they aren’t exactly intrinsically linked but there are a few referrals back to characters and developments in the first book that are sort of explained but are better to experience.
‘Betrayal’ focuses on the story of a English student, Olivia Grant, in the sleepy town of Port Gamble (well, ex-sleepy town). Olivia gets murdered at a Halloween party, police investigation ensues. So far, so predictable. However, here enter the characters who make ‘Betrayal’ a bit more than just a teenage murder mystery. Hayley and Taylor Ryan, the twin protagonists who we follow throughout the story, have some psychic powers (I don’t know if you’d describe them as psychic, they’re premonitions and seeing images and scenes from the past so I guess it could be loosely described as that?) and they attempt to solve the crime that is developing in their town.
If you’ve read ‘Envy’, you’ll know that it sounds exactly the same as the first book, but that’s where you’re wrong. Much of this book, rather than focusing on the murder of Olivia Grant (which the twins don’t actually end up solving), focuses on the twins discovering more about their past: finding out that the bus crash was caused on purpose, discovering more about their mother and why she keeps secrets from them. Because most of it is focused on the twins personal life, the murder-solving part of the novel does seem to drag on for longer than necessary, meaning you’re left with a constant yearning for closure that gets neglected throughout.
Furthermore, the viewpoint jumps all over the place (which was interesting in ‘Envy’ but just seems overdone and irritating in ‘Betrayal’) so at points it was just hard to follow who we were with, where and why. I would describe myself as a fast reader but hot damn I struggled to carry on at points in this novel.
As well as the viewpoint jumping all over the place, so did the time frame and date that we were working with. At one point the twins informed us that the murder suspects, Drew Marcello and his girlfriend Brianna Connors, had gone on the run and had been missing for days, then multiple chapters later we see Drew and Brianna getting a car and setting off. Similarly, chapter 29 jumped from a Tuesday night to a Saturday morning in the space of a paragraph. I understand that not all time that passes in the novel can be included, but normally large jumps of time are the new chapters so you have the understanding that there is a break and then a recommencement.
Despite the negatives of the novel (which also include getting the twins confused by referring to Hayley’s visions as Taylor’s multiple times) there were also some positives. An old wives tale gives us the origination of the series title which is interesting and quirky. Putting segments from the killers viewpoint throughout keeps up the enigma and makes you guess and second guess who you think the killer can really be. There are some unexpected character deaths that leave you feeling genuinely shocked and a little bit betrayed.
Overall, the murder plot in the novel is very good and it’s an enjoyable read. About thirty pages before the end you can completely work out what happened, but it’s still good to read the reveal and get your suspicions confirmed, with the story of Olivia Grant wrapping up nicely. However, I sincerely hope Gregg Olsen is planning on writing another Empty Coffin novel (‘Betrayal’ was released two years ago and I can’t find any confirmation of a follow up anywhere) because not all of the questions are completely answered. We find out an awful lot more about the bus crash that the girls were involved in at five years old, but we don’t find out why it was caused. It’s easy to assume it was because of the girls talents, but it would be good to find out exactly how and why the Text Creeper attempted to have them killed. By the end of the novel, we still don’t even know Text Creepers name, so there is a lot to merit a follow up.