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Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead


Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead

Nine years ago, Charlie Colbert’s life changed forever. While a student at Carroll University’s prestigious Graduate School of Journalism, she survived a horrifying act of violence that the media dubbed Scarlet Christmas. The trauma of the incident left her shattered, but since then, she has worked diligently to rebuild her life and put her past behind her.

Today, the woman at the center of Jenny Hollander’s debut novel barely resembles the awkward twentysomething she was nearly a decade ago. Now, Charlie is the editor-in-chief of a popular and respected magazine, a cool and collected woman who doesn’t hesitate to turn up her cut-glass British accent if she thinks it will help her get what she wants. Her husband-to-be, Tripp Goodman West, is the handsome heir to a New York publishing dynasty. From the outside, Charlie’s life looks perfect. But a sleek facade masks inner turmoil. When her former classmate, Steph, announces plans for a ripped-from-the-headlines movie that will “set the record straight” about the Carroll tragedy, Charlie’s world starts to crumble.

"Hollander excels at portraying the hothouse environment of a competitive graduate program and in capturing the harsh but intoxicating atmosphere of New York City."

Anyone would have mixed feelings about learning that the worst night of their life was set to become a major motion picture. But for Charlie, the prospect of revisiting Scarlet Christmas is particularly terrifying. Steph, who was “icy and more than a little terrifying” as a student, is now a prominent news anchor. Her involvement is guaranteed to bring plenty of attention both to the movie and to the “salacious and nostalgic” events that inspired it. Charlie knows that the media (particularly the infamously unscrupulous UK press) won’t be able to resist the story, especially because, unlike everyone else involved, she has refused to speak publicly about what she witnessed.

“If Steph does this, it will start up again. The paparazzi in the bushes, the grainy Polaroids in the tabloids,” she thinks. And with Charlie living her life in New York, the British reporters will turn their focus to those closest to her, including her elderly parents and her younger, intellectually disabled sister.

But Charlie doesn’t just fear what Steph’s movie might mean for her family. Her memories of that night are a “black hole.” There’s the story that a dazed Charlie told the police in the immediate aftermath of the incident. But she knows that wasn’t the whole truth. Charlie fears that if people start looking more deeply at the events of Scarlet Christmas, she’ll be exposed as a liar --- or worse. With help from her therapist, Charlie commits to uncovering her memories of the tragedy, though she may not like what she finds.

EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD is part campus mystery, part exploration of the lingering effects of trauma. The novel alternates between following Charlie’s unraveling in the present and her memories of her time at Carroll leading up to Scarlet Christmas, with excerpts from news articles and books about the killings providing additional context about the events. Hollander layers on the intrigue, gradually revealing details about Charlie’s classmates and Scarlet Christmas (including the identities of those who died), producing a compelling page-turner that will keep readers guessing until the disturbing truth about what really happened on that December night becomes clear.

A few twists fall flat, including one involving Tripp that should deliver a bigger punch than it does. But Hollander excels at portraying the hothouse environment of a competitive graduate program and in capturing the harsh but intoxicating atmosphere of New York City. (“It’s a survivor’s city,” Charlie observes, and she should know.) Not all readers will warm to Charlie, who can be cold and, at times, deliberately malicious. But her responses to the tragedy she experienced feel real.

EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD will appeal to fans of female-focused thrillers with protagonists who are wrestling with grief, trauma and questions about their past, such as Jessica Knoll’s LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE or Andrea Bartz’s THE LOST NIGHT.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on February 24, 2024

Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead
by Jenny Hollander

  • Publication Date: February 6, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250890845
  • ISBN-13: 9781250890849