Format Read: eBook (ARC via NetGalley)
Rating: 3.5 stars
When I saw the synopsis for Lina Chern’s Play the Fool, I knew I had to check it out. While I don’t read a ton of mystery, I do read a lot of Tarot, and this mystery centers on a Tarot reader turned amateur slueth. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House — Ballantine for the digital review copy.
Katie True works at a store in the mall and reads Tarot on the side, daydreaming about going into business as a Tarot reader. Then, her mall bestie winds up missing and she is determined to figure out what happened to her… and who she really was.
This is one of those debuts where you can sort of tell it’s a debut, in that the writing felt a bit forced at times and there’s kind of a lot going on. While I enjoyed the story and the mystery, the pacing was a bit off. Some reading sessions I couldn’t put the book down for wanting to know what came next, while other times it felt like a bit of a slog.
Katie herself is a bit hard to pin down, and I would have liked to have a better sense of our main character and what she wants. Some of that feels intentional, since Katie doesn’t really know what she wants, but other times I just felt frustrated by wanting to know her better. I did enjoy how she sees the world through Tarot cards, and I felt like the author did her research and got those elements right, for the most part. It was fun to see the cards play a role in the plot and in Katie’s life.
The plot is engaging and definitely kept me guessing about what would happen next, in a good way. It does all come together relatively quickly, but in a way that I personally found more or less satisfying, if a bit far fetched. I got the vibe towards the end that Chern might be setting us up for a sequel, and I think I’d definitely pick up a second book if so.
In all, this was an engaging book but most definitely one that feels like a debut novel. I’m interested to see what we get next from Chern and hope that some of the things that made this less than a 5-star read get ironed out over time.
I recommend Play the Fool to fans of mystery novels, Tarot lovers, and those that enjoy a novel that asks for some suspension of disbelief. Play the Fool comes out this Tuesday, March 28th.