Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Don’t Believe It – Charlie Donlea

Crime Fiction

2018 was the year where I finally cracked how to listen to an audio book rather than read a book. Quite a simple skill for many but I found it enormously challenging to concentrate until another blogger suggested that I imagine the author had visited to tell me the story – somehow imagining that there was someone there worked for me. But not all stories are created equally in this audio world. On the whole I prefer my audio books to be lighter than my usual reads and contemporary fiction works far better than crime fiction (somehow hearing the crimes described is too much, ludicrous I know but there we are!)

I have made one exception that worked though and this was for Don’t Believe It a crime fiction novel based upon a TV series like Making a Murderer or The Staircase or even the podcasts that comprised West Cork, all of which I’ve either watched or listed to. The format of the book is quite unlike anything else I’ve read and lent itself so well to audio that I have a suspicion that this actually may not have worked for me if I’d read rather than listened to it.

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the name of the twelve part TV series that female producer Sydney Ryan has planned. It covers a crime committed some ten years previously on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. A young man, Julian was killed at a fancy hotel resort and his college-aged girlfriend, Grace Seabold, was put on trial for murder and imprisoned. She’s worked hard, alongside her loyal friend to get her case noticed so that someone will campaign seriously for her release. Inevitably as Sydney undertakes her research into the case she uncovers stuff that could put her own career in danger. Of course the main thing we all want to know not only did Grace do it or not?

This book felt different to the many crime novels out in the market and of course it is tapping into a relatively new phenomenon where TV researchers have the money and time to probe areas that may yield answers due to the advances in forensics or the loosening of relationships which prevented the truth being told. The format also allows the author to play a little with the information because let’s face it, often these documentaries take a view, consciously or not.

The book is segmented with the story Grace Seabold herself presents. This goes back to the past and right up to the present, her story of what happened the day Julian died and as time goes on how this intersects with the evidence presented in court. We also see behind the scenes information from the proposal of the TV show to when it goes on air, which is fascinating in its own right. We sit on meetings hearing the feedback from the last episode and the planning of the next. This is a great insight into the TV world, the jockeying for ratings and the money-men demanding value for their bucks. We follow Sydney Ryan as she jets backwards and forwards, interviewing not just Grace but her friends and family, seeking out experts and working against the clock to put an episode together for the public to view. We also meet a man in hospital who has lost his leg due to cancer. It takes a little while to work out why he is there but even before then I felt he added an important contrast to Sydney looking back and Grace worrying about the here and now with her frantic schedule, instead we have a man working out what his future will hold.

A great book which as we got towards the end, I thought I had it all figured out; the author disagreed and surprised me with a different finale altogether!

I can’t leave this review without praising the narrator, Nina Alvamar, for the engaging way she told the story.

First Published UK: 28 June 2018
Publisher: Avid Audiobooks
No of Pages: 304
Listening Length: 10 hours 31 minutes
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

21 thoughts on “Don’t Believe It – Charlie Donlea

  1. This sounds interesting. As you say, we’re in a strange time where TV has more resources than the police and a lot more time to investigate – that throws up all sorts of questions!

    I’m not one for audio books but I might try your tip and see if it works for me too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed although so far these are US cases where the defence does seem far more tied to the defendants funds…
      the trick with the audio really worked for me and I now look forward to having a story on my way home from work each day…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried a few audio books a nd only got on with the narrator’s of two so far but now our car radio is broken and in the great age of technology can’t be reset because it’s all digital!! So think I’ll be running for the audio section way the library soon!! Great post:)


  3. I find audio books a challenge too. I really can’t concentrate on them unless I’m out for a walk. I also find them slow compared with the pace I read at. Having said that, we always used to listen to them in the car when the kids were wee. Harry Potter was narrated by Stephen Fry was a particular favourite.


    1. We always had books in the car for our long summer trips, the Stephen Fry Harry Potter were a favourite of ours too. The pace is a lot slower than reading for yourself and I suspect that’s another reason why thrillers don’t work as well for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always give credit to an author who can effectively lead me down the garden path without me knowing it’s happening, Cleo. And it sounds like an effective use of the dual story line, too, which I like when it’s done well. Glad this worked for you.


  5. Like you, 2018 was the year I tried to get into audio books, listening to my first one. My sister is the complete opposite; she hardly ever reads books these days, preferring audio books. I’m listening to another one at the moment but I think what I struggle with is the pace. It takes a lot longer to listen to a book than it would take me to read. However, I think audio books are probably great for when travelling (train, plane) and my local library makes quite a few available for nothing. So, a work in progress…

    Reading your comments about Don’t Believe It made me think of Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski which I read last year. That’s based on a podcast by someone who investigates cold cases and I did wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I’d listened to it rather than read it.


  6. I’m such a nerdy note-taker when I read, that I have found it a challenge to listen to audio books. I think your approach is a great one – I’m listening to one right now that I started while on a walk. But it’s an easy listen, not too complicated. I made the mistake of listening to a thriller while cooking dinner one time and I totally botched the recipe! Happy Monday, Cleo!


  7. I was just looking at this book on Audible yesterday and trying to decide whether to get it on there or whether to buy the book so your review has come at the perfect time for me. I’m definitely going to get the audio book and I can’t wait to start listening to it. 🙂 Fab review!


  8. So far, audiobooks have not worked for me. Perhaps your tip would help. I also would need earbuds, I think. Without a listening device, I would be limited to where and when I could listen.

    Thanks for sharing.


  9. Sounds like an intriguing set-up! I find I react differently when I listen to books too and know exactly what you mean about listening to crimes rather than reading about them! I think I like first person narrators more on audio – then it really does feel as if someone is talking directly to you…


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