All her life Ellie Enderlin had been known as Lila’s sister—until the day Lila, a top math student at Stanford, was murdered, and the shape of their family changed forever. Twenty years later, Ellie is a professional coffee buyer who has never put down roots. When, in a chance meeting, she comes into possession of the notebook that Lila carried everywhere, Ellie returns home to finally discover the truth about her sister’s death—a search that will lead her to Lila’s secret lover, to the motives and fate of a man who profited from their family’s grief, and ultimately to the deepest secrets even sisters keep from each other.
From the bestselling author of The Year of Fog (“Highly recommended [for fans of] authors like Jodi Picoult and Jacquelyn Mitchard.”—Library Journal [starred review]), this is a riveting family drama about loss, love, and the way hope redefines our lives—a novel at once heartbreaking, provocative, and impossible to put down.
Praise for No One You Know
“Michelle Richmond’s encore to The Year of Fog is an equally addictive read.”—Denver Post
“Richmond sets out to create not a straight-up thriller, but a novel that explores love, family, work, guilt and the responsibility of the writer to his or her subject, all within the framework of a murder mystery.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Michelle Richmond never strikes a false note in No One You Know. . . . It's an intelligent, emotionally convincing tale about a family tragedy and the process of storytelling.”—Boston Globe
“As complex and beautiful as a mathematical proof, this gripping, thought-provoking novel will keep you thinking long after the last page has been turned.”—Family Circle
"Beautifully written"—Seattle Times
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Michelle Richmond is the author of The Year of Fog, Dream of the Blue Room, and the award-winning story collection The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Michelle lives with her husband and son in San Francisco, where she is at work on her next novel.
Read an Excerpt
When I found him at last, I had long ago given up the search. It was late at night, and I was dining alone in a small cafe in Diriomo, Nicaragua. It was a place I had come to cherish during my annual visits to the village, the kind of establishment where one could order a plate of beans and a cup of coffee any time of the day or night.
I had spent the evening wandering the dark, empty streets. July days in Diriomo were scorching; come nightfall, the buildings seemed to radiate heat, so that the air possessed a baked, dusty scent. Eventually I came to the familiar intersection. Going left would lead to my hotel, with its hard bed and uncooperative ceiling fan. Straight ahead was a baseball diamond where I had once seen a local kid beat a rat to death with an old wooden bat. To the right was a wide road giving way to a crooked alleyway, at the end of which the cafe beckoned.
Some time past midnight, I stood on the doorstep, ringing the little copper bell. Maria appeared, dressed in a long blue skirt, white blouse, and no shoes, looking as though she'd been expecting me.
"Did I wake you?"
"No," she said. "Welcome."
It was a ritual greeting between us. I had no way of knowing whether Maria was actually asleep on those nights, or whether she was sitting patiently in her kitchen, waiting for customers.
"What are you serving tonight?" I asked. This was also ritual, for we both knew that the menu never changed, no matter the time or season.
"Nacatamal," she said. "Esta usted sola?"
"S’, se–ora, I am alone." My answer, like the menu, had remained unaltered for years. And yet she asked it, each time, with a kind of naked hope, as if she believed that one day my luck might change.
The cafe was empty and dark, somehow cool despite the heat outside. She pointed to a small table where a candle burned in a jar. I thanked her and sat down. I could hear her preparing coffee in the kitchen, which was separated from the dining area by a narrow doorway in which hung a curtain of red fabric. I watched the patterns made by the candlelight on the far wall. The images seemed too lovely and symmetrical to be random—a bird, a sailboat, a star, followed by a series of rectangular bars of light. It was a feeling I often had in that town, and one of the reasons I kept returning when my work as a coffee buyer brought me to Nicaragua—a feeling that even the simplest natural acts were somehow ordered, as if some unnamed discipline reigned over both the animate and inanimate. I rarely felt this way at home in San Francisco. It was no wonder the locals referred to Diriomo as pueblo brujo—bewitched village.
Maria had just set my plate on the table when the bell clanged outside. Together we looked toward the door, as if something miraculous might materialize. In all the times I had taken a midnight meal among the porcelain dolls and carnivorous plants in Maria's cafe, I'd rarely met another customer.
Maria went to the door and opened it a crack. For a moment my table was flooded with moonlight.
"Buenas noches, Maria," a man's voice said.
The door closed, plunging the room once again into near darkness.
The man passed by my table. His face was turned away, but in the pale light from the kitchen I observed that he carried himself in the way very tall men often do, shoulders slumped in a sort of apology for taking up so much space. He wore a baseball cap pulled low on the forehead. A hardback book was tucked under one arm. He went to a table in the corner, the one farthest from my own. When he sat down, his back to me, the wooden chair creaked so violently I thought it might break.
Maria took a match out of her apron pocket, struck it against the wall, and dipped the flame into a crimson jar on the man's table. Only after she had retreated into the kitchen to fetch his coffee did he turn around and glance at me from beneath the brim of his hat. In the flickering red candlelight only his slightly jutting chin was visible, the rest of his face receding into shadows.
"Hello," I said.
"You're American," I said, surprised. Foreigners were scarce in Diriomo. Encountering a fellow American at this particular cafe in the middle of the night was utterly strange.
"I am," he said.
He gave a polite wave of the hand before leaning over the table and peering into his book. He held the candle above the page, and I considered warning him it was bad for his eyes to read in the darkness. He seemed like the kind of man who needed to be told these things, the kind of man who ought to have someone taking care of him. Soon Maria brought him coffee. Something about the way he lifted his cup, the way he turned the pages of his book, even the way he tilted his head toward Maria in silent thanks when she brought him a napkin and a bowl of sugar cubes, struck me as familiar. I watched him closely, wondering if the feeling that I knew him was simply an illusion brought about by my having been traveling alone for too long. The longer I sat there, however, the more I became convinced that it was not the vague familiarity of one countryman to another, but something more personal.
While he drank his coffee and read his book, seemingly oblivious to me, I tried to recall the context in which I might have known him. I sensed, more than knew, that it had been a long time ago, and that there had been some degree of intimacy between us; this sensation of intimacy coupled with my inability to remember was completely unsettling. The thought crossed my mind that I might have slept with him. There had been a period following my sister's death when I slept with many men. This was a long time ago, though, so long that now it almost seemed like a different life.
Maria brought my food. I waited for the steaming plantain leaves to cool before peeling them away, picking up the nacatamal, and biting in. Back home, I had tried several times to replicate Maria's combination of pork, rice, potatoes, mint leaves, raisins, and spices, but it never came out right. When I tried to tease the recipe out of her, she just laughed and pretended not to understand my request.
"You should try these," I said to the man between bites.
"Oh, I know Maria's nacatamal," he said, glancing my way once again. "Delicious, but I already ate."
What could he be doing here so late at night, I wondered, if he had already had his supper? In Diriomo, men did not sit alone in cafes reading books, even American men. A few minutes later, when I took my wallet out to pay, he closed his book and stared at the cover for a few seconds, as if to gather courage, before standing and walking over to my table. Maria watched us shamelessly from the doorway of the kitchen. The red curtain was pulled aside, filling the room with soft light. For a moment it occurred to me that perhaps Maria had set this whole thing up for my benefit, perhaps she was trying to pull off a bit of matchmaking.
The man removed his baseball cap and held it in both hands. His shaggy hair grazed the low ceiling, gathering static. "Pardon me," he said. Now I could see his face completely—the large dark eyes and wide mouth, the high cheekbones and prominent chin, covered with stubble—and I knew at once who he was.
I had not seen him in eighteen years. There had been a period of several months in college when I thought of him constantly. I had watched for his name in the paper, had performed drive-bys of his ground-floor flat in Russian Hill, had taken lunch at a certain small Italian restaurant in North Beach that he frequented, despite the fact that the menu stretched my student budget beyond its limits. At that time I suspected that if I shadowed him without ceasing I could begin to understand something—maybe not the thing he had done, but the mechanism by which he had been able to do it. That mechanism, I was certain, was a psychological abnormality; some moral tuning fork that was present in others was absent in him.
Then, one afternoon in August of 1991, he vanished. That day I walked into the restaurant in North Beach at half past noon, as I had been doing every week for three months. Immediately my eyes went to a table in the corner, above which hung a miniature oil painting of the Cathedral Duomo of Milan. It was where he always sat, a table that seemed to be reserved specifically for him. He always arrived on Monday at a quarter past noon, and after sitting down would place a notebook on the table to the right of his bread plate. He rarely bothered to glance up at his surroundings as he scribbled furiously in the notebook with a mechanical pencil. He would pause only to order spaghetti with prawns in marinara sauce, which he ate quickly, followed by an espresso, which he drank slowly. The whole time, he worked, scribbling with his right hand and eating with his left. But that day in August, he wasn't there. Immediately I sensed something had changed. I dipped my bread in olive oil and waited. By the time the waiter brought my salad, I knew he wasn't coming. At one-fifteen I called in sick to the University of San Francisco library, where I held a work-study position, and took the bus to Russian Hill. There was a For Rent sign in front of his flat, and the shutters were open. Through the large windows I could see the place was stripped clean, all of the furniture gone. It occurred to me that I might never see him again.
A story has no beginning or end," my sophomore English professor used to say. "Arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead." It was a motto that Andrew Thorpe managed to work into every session of class, no matter what book we were discussing. One could almost anticipate the moment he was going to say it, as the statement was always preceded by a lengthy pause, a lifting of his eyebrows, a quick intake of breath.
I would choose a Wednesday in December 1989. Again and again, poring over the details, I would choose that day, and it would become the touchstone from which all other events unfurled, the moment by which I judged the two parts of my life: the years with Lila, and those without her.
On that morning I was in the kitchen, listening to Jimmy Cliff on the radio and waiting for the coffee to brew. Our parents had already left for work. Lila came downstairs, dressed in a ruffled black blouse, green corduroy skirt, and Converse high-tops. Her eyes were red, and I was startled to realize she'd been crying. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen Lila cry.
"Nothing. It's just been a stressful week." She gave a little wave of her hand as if to dismiss the whole thing outright. She was wearing a ring I'd never seen before, a delicate gold band with a small black stone.
"Dance with me," I said, attempting to cheer her up. I grabbed her hand and tried to twirl her around, but she pulled away.
The coffeemaker beeped. I turned down the radio and poured her a cup. "Is this about him?" I asked.
"It is, isn't it? Come on. Talk to me."
She was looking out the kitchen window, at a small limb that had fallen onto our deck the previous week during a rainstorm. Only later, as I replayed the events of those days, would it seem strange that none of us had bothered to remove the fallen limb from the deck.
"How long has that been there?" Lila asked.
"We should take care of it."
But neither of us made a move toward the kitchen door.
"Tell me his name," I said finally. "I know guys on the basketball team. I'll have his face rearranged." I was only half joking.
Lila didn't respond; it was as if she hadn't heard me at all. I had learned long before not to be offended by her silences. Once, when I accused her of ignoring me, she had explained, "It's like I'm wandering through a house, and I happen to step into another room, and the door shuts behind me. I get involved in what's going on in that room, and everything else sort of vanishes."
I reached across the counter and touched her hand to summon her back. "Nice ring. Is it opal?"
She slid her hand into her pocket. "It's just a trinket."
"Where did you get it?"
She shrugged. "I don't remember."
Lila never bought jewelry for herself. The ring must have been a gift from him, whoever he was. The very thought of a romantic entanglement was new to Lila. She hadn't had more than half a dozen dates in high school and college combined. Throughout those years, my mother was fond of saying that boys didn't know how to appreciate a girl of such exceptional intelligence, but I suspected my mother had it all wrong. Boys were interested in Lila; she simply had no use for them. During my freshman year of high school, when Lila was a senior, I'd seen the way guys looked at her. I was the one they talked to, the one they invited to parties and asked on dates, the fun and freewheeling sister who could be counted on to organize group outings and play elaborate pranks on the teachers, but Lila was far from invisible. With her long dark hair, her general aloofness, her weird sense of humor, her passion for math, she was, I imagined, intimidating to boys in a way I would never be. When she walked down the hallway, alone and deep in thought, clad in the eccentric clothes she made on my mom's old Singer sewing machine, she must have seemed completely inapproachable. Although boys didn't talk to her, it was clear to me that they saw her. I was well-liked, but Lila had mystery.
Even after she had graduated from UC Berkeley and started the Ph.D. program in pure mathematics at Stanford, Lila was perfectly content living in her old bedroom, eating dinner with the family most nights, watching rented movies with Mom and Dad on weekends while I was out with my friends. Lately, though, she had begun going out several evenings each week, coming home after midnight with a smile on her face. When I tried to get her to tell me who she was with, she would say, "Just a friend."
Reading Group Guide
1. How did Ellie’s storytelling voice enhance your reading? How might the novel have unfolded if it had been told from Peter McConnell’s point of view, or even Lila’s?
2. The title No One You Know captures the quest to find Lila’s killer, but it also describes the secrets Lila kept from Ellie. Discuss the relationship between the sisters. In what ways did they know each other well? In what ways were they different? In your family, do siblings tend to be close or distant?
3. How did your opinion of Andrew Thorpe and Peter McConnell shift throughout the novel? When did you trust each of them the most and the least?
4. Why was Lila drawn to mathematics? What did it mean to her? What life philosophies did it provide? How did she fit into a community of mostly male math scholars?
5. What lay at the heart of Henry’s breakup with Ellie? How were Ellie’s other relationships affected by her sister, even when they were teenagers?
6. Were Thorpe’s books inappropriate? What is the nature of true crime books? Do they sensationalize and fabricate, or can they reveal important truths?
7. Chapter Ten describes the distinctions between conjecture and proof. How did these concepts, along with the quotation from Pascal at the beginning of the novel, echo throughout Lila’s story? What did the Goldbach Conjecture represent to Lila and Peter? How might the word “proof” carry a different meaning to a mathematician than to a “regular” person? 8. At the end of Chapter Twenty-nine, Ellie says that she had always thought of her sister as blameless. Was Lila blameless in her affair with Peter?
9. Discuss Billy Boudreaux and his music. Ultimately, who was he, and how did he perceive himself? What were his greatest strengths and vulnerabilities?
10. In what ways did the coffee trade give Ellie a soothing way to escape the tragedies of her life? Why was she so well suited for the cupping process?
11. How do the landscapes of Central America and San Francisco affect the tone and mood of the novel? What aspects of Ellie’s personality are captured in both locales?
12. Which character did you most suspect of being Lila’s killer? When the truth about her death was revealed, how did you react? How was Ellie’s family affected by so many years of not knowing? Would her parents have stayed together if they had not been forced to live in the shadow of the unknown?
13. What did you think of Thorpe’s advice about how to tell a good story? In what ways does Michelle Richmond defy Thorpe’s approach? What is meant by the novel’s closing lines, asserting that stories belong to listeners and authors in equal measure?
14. Both this novel and Richmond’s The Year of Fog portray families coping with tragedy. How is San Francisco used as a character in each novel? How does Richmond use mystery and the unknown to portray a character’s strength and grace?
Weaving an intricate family drama with a web of mystery and fate, the New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Fog returns with another mesmerizing novel. By turns spellbinding and tender, No One You Know is the story of Ellie Enderlin, a woman who has spent the last two decades trying to rebuild her life after her sister’s murder. Lila was a top math student at Stanford when her life was abruptly cut short. Though the crime was never solved, one of Ellie’s professors turned the tragedy into a bestseller. The book was rife with speculations that devastated many lives and ruined the career of Peter McConnell, a brilliant mathematician who had been Lila’s lover. Reunited with Peter while traveling in Nicaragua, Ellie must confront many truths about the sister she cherished but never really knew.
A novel of profound beauty and page-turning intrigue, No One You Know showcases the storytelling power of a rising star. The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Michelle Richmond’s No One You Know. We hope they will enrich your experience of this gripping novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This story is basically about how little twists of fate can alter our life stories. Ellie's life has been shaped by her genius sister, Lila's unsolved murder. A significant part of Ellie's story is her past and present relationship with Andrew Thorpe, a teacher and "friend" who published a book about Ellie's sister's murder, which launched a career in true crime fiction. It is also a story of betrayal, secrets and, finally, a peaceful resolution. This tale is much more than a crime novel, not just the life of the murdered girl, but the sister left behind, whose own connections with her sister were severed by another person's actions and untruths. A lot to contemplate and a great story to hold your interest!
I read the author's book 'The Year of Fog' and loved it, so went on to this one. I enjoyed the book, it was a great read/mystery in some ways, but a little heavy on the history of mathematicians. I understand it was important to the story, but still, I skimmed those parts. Enjoyable otherwise!
Toward the end of this incredibly moving literary mystery, the storyteller¿and Ellie is a storyteller narrator is far too sterile a word for what is going on here¿comes to the realization that stories aren¿t set in stone. I don¿t know if that is a universal truth, provable to the irrefutable certainty demanded by the mathematician characters in No One You Know, but it is clearly true about the story told in these wonderful pages. This story is set in something far richer: fertile literary soil that is at times dark, at times funny, at times heartbreaking, and, at every step, lyrical. I¿ve been a been reader of literary fiction for more years than I care to admit, and a reader of mysteries for even longer than that, and still no novel comes to mind that, for me, combines the best of both these worlds so elegantly. In this novel of stories told and received, retold and unwound, Ellie¿s search for the truth about the unsolved murder of Lila, her brilliant mathematician sister, is a lovely study of passion, family, loss, and love. It left me thinking about so many things: How we love and why we fear loving. How we define ourselves and those around us, or leave those tasks to others. How important passion is to the work we choose to do. How often untruths told with confidence are received as truths, and how difficult it is to peel back the edges to get a peek behind widely accepted untruths. How much damage we sometimes do to others when we are over-focused on ourselves. No One You Know is a book I will be putting in the hands of every intelligent reader I know.
Good book - connected well with the characters. The one thing that kept me from rating 5 stars is all of the detail about her mathematical equations. It didn't interest me in the least to get that much detail about that. I was more interested in the story.
A who done it that kept me wondering who done it - I was very surprised when the mystery was solved. Great summer read!
Ellie Enderlin is a professional coffee buyer whose life is influenced by one event: the murder of her sister Lila twenty years earlier. After a chance encounter during a coffee buying trip, Ellie decides to conduct her own investigation into Lila's death, which was never officially solved. However, doing so forces her to confront the truth of her family, her relationship with her sister, and her own isolation. Complicating matters is Ellie's own guilt for unwittingly contributing to a true crime book written about her sister's murder, which has unduly influenced Ellie's own thinking about the event. Although this description might make the book sound like a straightforward "by the books" thriller, it really is more than that. Although Ellie does conduct her own investigation (as only people in novels seem to do), the book deals with the complicated emotions surrounding the murder of a loved one as much as it does with the "whodunit" aspect. I thought this elevated the book above your standard mystery/thriller, and Richmond does a great job of working in little details about coffee, math, music and writing that add interest to the story. Most of all, Richmond does a wonderful job making Ellie a fully rounded character, which is so often lacking in books of this ilk. The book is a solid and satisfying read, and I would recommend it without reservation. An added little bonus in my edition was the author's No One You Know playlist, which includes songs either referenced in the book or that capture its spirit and setting. I think Michelle Richmond has pretty good taste in music!Excerpt: Lila was like an unfinished novel¿two hundred pages in, just when you're really getting into the story, you realize the rest never got written. You'll never know how the story ended. Instead, you're left with an abrupt and unsatisfying non-end, all the threads of the plot hanging loose.Rating: 4 stars
This is a book that I found absorbing from the moment I started it. Ellie Enderlin¿s life has been defined by the murder of her sister twenty years ago when Ellie was 19 and her sister Lila was 22. Lila was a math prodigy; she was also pretty; unconventional; nonconforming; kind-hearted but rather unsocial; and right before she died, involved in a love affair with a math professor.Ever since Lila¿s murder, Ellie has ¿come to see the world in terms of before and after.¿ Ellie, in college at the time, told her story to a sympathetic literature professor, Andrew Thorpe, who encouraged her to regard him as her trustworthy confidante. Later that year, however, he turned her words into a best-selling true crime book, even settling on a killer ¿ Lila¿s lover, Peter McConnell. In spite of this betrayal by Thorpe, Ellie reads his book over and over, obsessing about the story he tells.As the book begins, Ellie finally catches up with McConnell ¿ she has been searching for him all this time to confront him and ask him why.She finds him in a most improbable place ¿ in Nicaragua, where she visits frequently in her capacity as a coffee buyer. Peter lives there in exile, although he was never formally convicted. Nevertheless, he ¿had been hanged in the court of public opinion.¿ Storytelling is the dominant metaphor in this book, and each character in the book can be defined by his or her relationship to its art. Lila had the gift of unusual perspective: for example, when she got stuck on a math problem, she would turn the page of formulae upside down, just to look at it differently. The girls' mother uses artifice to help shape outcomes. Their father lets imaginings color the antecedent facts. Henry has a passion for details, ¿for the oddities that made a story unique.¿ Thorpe picks out his ending and then builds a narrative framework to support it. Peter and Ellie both let someone else write their stories, and then let those stories shape their lives.Ellie has many loves in this book ¿ her hometown of San Francisco, good coffee, her sister, and her boyfriend Henry. Yet Ellie maintains a distance from people ¿ they can leave you, after all. And so she remains ¿unknowable¿ to some extent. But all the main characters turn out to be ¿no one you know¿ ¿ they are not what they seem to be at first, either to Ellie, or to the reader. Part of the appeal of the book is in getting to know just who the characters really are.Evaluation: I really liked this book a lot. I wasn¿t totally satisfied with the ending, but it wasn¿t really the point of the book, which was more about the story that gets you there, and the ways in which the stories we believe help contribute to the people we become. I thought it was a very good read. Addendum: The lyrics that I think match this book are Billy Joel¿s "The Stranger":Well we all have a faceThat we hide away foreverAnd we take them out andShow ourselvesWhen everyone has goneSome are satin some are steelSome are silk and some are leatherThey're the faces of the strangerBut we love to try them onWell we all fall in loveBut we disregard the dangerThough we share so many secretsThere are some we never tellWhy were you so surprisedThat you never saw the strangerDid you ever let your lover seeThe stranger in yourself?...You may never understandHow the stranger is inspiredBut he isn't always evilAnd he isn't always wrongThough you drown in good intentionsYou will never quench the fireYou'll give in to your desireWhen the stranger comes along."
No One You Know is one of those stories that doesn't grab you so much as slowly suck you in. As everyone who has sat fuming at the table while a relative or friend tells a story about you, that while not exactly untrue, frames you in way you do not wish to be seen can attest, sometimes the stories people tell about us affect us more that we wish.Ellie Enderlin was the younger daughter, sister to a math genius who is murdered. Later, her sister Lila's death becomes the subject of a true crime story. The story opens almost two decades after Lila's death, when Ellie encounters a man from her sister's past that sets Ellie on the journey to try and figure out the truth of what happened to her sister. The story examines perceptions,love, truth and proof in a myriad of ways. San Francisco, coffee (as Ellie is now a coffee taster) and mathematicians figure in also. It's one of those stories I hate to talk too much about for fear of spoiling the way the layers unfold. I found it an enjoyable read.
When Ellie Enderlin's sister, Lila, is murdered, Ellie is grief-stricken. Lila was a math genius and Ellie never felt that she measured up to Lila in her parents' eyes. Ellie shares her grief with her literature professor who ends up using the information to write a best-selling true crime novel. Ellie and her parents feel betrayed and outraged. Over the next 20 years, Ellie drifts. She becomes a professional coffee buyer and travels frequently. She finds it hard to become close to anyone. A chance meeting in a small South American village puts Ellie in possession of the notebook that Lila always carried. The knowledge she gains from the notebook leads Ellie to search once again for the truth behind her sister's murder. The grief Ellie feels for her sister is palpable. The plot and characters are developed slowly over the course of the book. Everything and everyone Ellie knew before Lila's death becomes redefined as she searches for the truth behind her sister's murder 20 years later. This book is not a fast read, but it draws the reader in and is very hard to put down once started.
I eagerly awaited "No One You Know." The library where I work has chosen this book for it's book club later in the year. I dove into it. The first third or so really grabbed me. Then ...eh. I lost interest. The ending was a letdown. I really wish the author had developed Lila a bit more. It wasn't a bad read, but I wanted more from it.
Ellie Enderlin's sister, Lila, a brilliant math student, was murdered twenty years ago. Ellie, a professional coffee buyer, comes into possession of a notebook that Lila always used, and begins a search to find out the truth about her sister's death. I also read The year of Fog and enjoyed how she alluded to it in this book. I look forward to her next novel. Great book!
In "No One You Know" by Michelle Richmond, Ellie Enderson undertakes to solve the mystery of her older sister's murder. The story starts about 18 years after the murder. Ellie is working as a coffee buyer. In a small village in Nicaragua, she runs into a man that was good friends with her sister, Lila. Their conversation reminds Ellie that much about her sister's death is still unknown and is the catalyst she needs to start looking for the truth.This book is definitely in the "literary mystery" genre. While the mystery is central to the book, the story is more about Ellie's emotional development, the relationship between sister, secrets that each family keeps, and how one tragic event impacts so many people.One interesting technique in this book is how the careers of several main characters (mathemetician, writer, coffee buyer) are integrated into the central mystery and used to draw parallels with Ellie's discoveries and growth. I highly recommend this book. It was enjoyable from start to finish. And if you have not yet read Richmond's previous book "The Year of Fog", I would recommend that one as well.
This book is about a story. By which I mean the story that we create of our lives, and the stories that are created by others about who they think we are. Ellie Enderlin, the main character of "No One You Know", has lived most of her adult life as part of her dead sister's Lila's story...the one created when her sister was murdered decades ago.Ellie lives in such blind acceptance of the details set forth in the book that was written about her older sister's murder that the first half of this book was very frustrating to me. Because most of the book takes place twenty years after Lila's murder, the main characters don't have the same sense of urgency that the reader does - to find out the truth, find out what really happened. The reader joins the story after it appears that all have given up, and it makes for a long time before the events of the book really take hold.Ellie is a reader, her sister was a mathematician. Where Lila depended on facts and figures, Ellie relies on words. And when her former professor writes a book about Lila, about their family, about the murder, those words become Ellie's facts."I was barely twenty years old when I read your book," I said. "And I believed every word of it. You wrote the story of my life before I'd had a chance to live it. You said I was directionless, but how could you have known that? I was still so young. But I thought you were so smart, I thought you knew the answers. No one had ever examined me as closely as you did, no one had ever taken as keen an interest. I figured you'd seen into my core and could make out, better than anyone else, who I was. It wasn't very smart on my part. I know I'm as much to blame as you - or more - but I became that character."And as for Lila, "Lila was like an unfinished novel - two hundred pages in, just when you're really getting into the story, you realize the rest never got written. You'll never know who the story ended. Instead, you're left with an abrupt and unsatisfying non-end, all the threads of the plot hanging loose."It's funny, because it was about two hundred pages in that I really got into this book, about where Ellie starts actively pursuing the truth. She starts asking the questions she should have asked long ago, starts learning more about her sister than the story Lila wrote for herself. Still, there were several threads that were still hanging loose at the end, a few characters (like Ellie's parents) that barely existed in the story, and one real life character that sticks out like a sore thumb. It was jarring having journalist Ben Fong-Torres inhabit this fictional world. I still don't quite see the connection...Richmond does use very evocative language to draw the reader in, most often about location. "The place had a bland institutional smell - floor cleaner and cardboard, a slight chemical odor that might have been dry erase markers. The smell of the world was changing, I noticed it every day. When I was in college, the buildings of USF smelled like chalk, old books, and mimeograph ink."And, "The place smelled of floor polish, potpourri, and the musty, burnt odor that lingers after a rug has been cleaned with an old vacuum cleaner." (Ellie makes a living partly through her sense of smell, she is a coffee buyer.)But the author gives us more description that of just place and smell. We're given a small taste of what it might be like to be the person left behind, the survivor when a family member is ripped away. "He had done such enormous damage to my family, had taken on such absurd proportions in my mind, that no one could make me feel the depth of emotion he elicited. It was hatred I felt for him, and when hatred goes deep enough, no affection can compare. For love to take hold there must be available space in the mind and heart; I was so eaten up with anger toward him, I could not make room."I am not sure to whom "No One You Know" refers...to Lila, or Ellie, or most of the people Ellie has known thro
This book totally captured my attention from start to finish. Ellie Enderlin grew up in the shadow of her older sister, Lila, a top math student at Stanford. Ellie is a professional coffee buyer who just happens to travel to the Dominican Republic on business. There she meets up with the prime suspect in her sister's murder of nearly 20 years ago. Strangely she feels a sense that this man could not have murdered her sister. Given a notebook of her sister's filled with mathematical equations, Ellie is determined to solve the mystery once and for all of her sister's murder. Returning to San Francisco, she begins to investigate the murder, pursuing the help of the author who wrote the true-crime book. The search leads her to find a lover that no one knew Lila had. In the course of investigation, she uncovers many facts that were surprising to her about Lila, and finally to the solving of the mystery. A well-written novel, I enjoyed this fully as much as "The Year of Fog".
Richmond has proven herself to be quite a talented author. She is able to develop characters and story line so well, while at the same time allowing herself to "paint" the background for us to enrich our experience. This book was quite well developed.At the heart of this book is a tragedy. And as with most tragedies, those left behind continue to suffer. Unanswered questions about how something could happen and the what-ifs that we could have done that might have prevented it. Richmond is able to give us the feeling of being in the grip of the tragedy. Her books are not easily put down and I find are often worth picking up for a second read.I would highly recommend this one.
Twenty years ago, Ellie Enderlin¿s sister was murdered and the crime went unsolved. Lila was a student at Stanford, an up-and-coming mathematician with a bright future, the genius daughter that any family would be proud of. Her death changed their family forever. Now, two decades later, Ellie comes into possession of Lila¿s notebook, a book she carried with her everywhere she went. The notebook sends Ellie on a search to uncover the secrets that Lila kept, and the truth of her life and death.In Michelle Richmond¿s, second novel, No One You Know, we meet a family at the worst time in their lives, and through the eyes of the youngest daughter can see the ramifications of their loss. Ellie has always defined herself as the ¿bad daughter¿, not because she¿s ¿bad¿, but because her sister, Lila, was the ¿good daughter¿ and if there is a ¿good daughter¿ then it stands to reason there is a ¿bad¿ one. Ellie has never felt like she has had the drive or ambition of her brilliant older sister, and it seemed to me, has sort of felt like a loser all her life. It was interesting in the novel to see how Ellie learned about her sister, who she really was, not the idealized version that Ellie had built up in her mind.The slow changes that we see Ellie undergo in the novel make it worth the read. Ellie has spent most of her life guarded and self-contained, sort of the ¿love `em and leave `em¿ type. I enjoyed the slow unfurling of both the storyline and Ellie. Lest we forget, Lila was a mathematician, so of course, math plays an interesting part in the novel as well. I spent a couple of minutes playing around with the Goldbach Conjecture before I remembered that I stink at math and don¿t like math. But when a story contains a line like ¿Every even integer greater than two can be expressed as the sum of two primes¿¿ you just gotta start thinking, ¿hmmm¿.28, 14 and 14¿no¿13 and 15¿.yeah, that¿s it¿.oh wait¿I hate math¿.¿I liked Richmond¿s writing style; she sets the scene quite nicely, with a flair for description that makes it easy to ¿see¿ what she sees. (But without the lyrical poetic stuff that takes three paragraphs to say, ¿It was foggy¿ that some authors use¿) I liked her character development; she has an eye for detail that really brings the people on the pages to life. I haven¿t read her first book, A Year of Fog, but after finishing No One You Know, I was curious enough to head to Amazon and check it out. It sounds like an interesting read as well, and I¿ll be adding it to my teetering tower o¿ To Be Read books. (aka¿the teetering tower o¿ TBR¿nice alliteration, huh?)
When I was selected to receive No One You Know from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in honor of its release in paperback, I was thrilled. I love mysteries and have heard great things about Michelle Richmond¿s books. Though I haven¿t had the chance to read The Year of Fog, I was looking very forward to reading No One You Know.I loved the way the mystery was crafted in No One You Know. Richmond really keeps the reader guessing ¿ I had no idea who really murdered Leila. There was no predictability to this book, but when I came to the end, it was completely believable. This really was a wonderfully written novel, with amazing twists and turns that keep the reader hooked.I also loved the character of Ellie. In a lot of ways, her life stopped the day that her sister was murdered. Lost and confused, she turned to a friend in order to find herself again. When he betrayed her and wrote her story in a book, she took it to heart. In effect, she became the person he wrote. In some ways, she had to find closure in the story of Leila to find herself again.No One You Know was a great mystery and a completely absorbing book. I can¿t wait to go back and read The Year of Fog. I¿m so glad to have had the chance to read Michelle Richmond and highly recommend it to any mystery fans or any lovers of contemporary fiction!
"No One you know " is a strong follow up to "The Year of Fog". This is yet another tale of how people move on, or can't move on after something terrible happens. The story was well done and flowed well. The story also wasn't too mathy- just enough to be interesting (which was a great relief). Reccomended to anyone who enjoyed her earlier book or enjoys the type of real life dramas spun by authors like Jodi Picoult.
This is not that great of a book. It's an undemanding, interesting read - perfect for the beach - but it's not especially well or tightly written, and there are some plot holes that seriously effect the story's believability.There are a number of little irritating things that go on: the sisters look a lot alike and then they don't; Lila's horse doesn't like carrots and then she does; Ellie can never remember how many minutes passed before something happened. This is stuff that should've been tightened up or better explained. Rather important details get held back just until they're necessary to advance the plot, with the result that it feels like Richmond set out without knowing herself who the murderer was going to be.There are also two fairly serious problems with the narrative. One is that the denouement and the solution to the mystery are revealed in a clunky, expository monologue that goes on for pages and pages, given by a character with an indistinct, not especially believable voice. I suppose this gives the reader the same sort of let-down feeling that Ellie gets from it; the whole monologue pulls the reader out of the story, though, and seems to me to be an unnecessary attempt to humanize the culprit in a way that doesn't feel organic to the story. The second, a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through, is the identity of the murderer. The person responsible was turned up in the initial investigation, and, after very little digging two decades after the fact, is revealed to have a connection with the victim. It's unbelievable that the police would not have run such a lead down, and unbelievable that if they had they wouldn't have found what they were looking for twenty years earlier.It's a quick and easy read, and the story's not uninteresting, but the mystery could have been better-constructed, and the writing could have been tightened up a lot.
Very intriguing story. It is a mystery, as well as a look at the effect the murder had on the people involved. As Ellie Enderlin looks for the truth regarding her sister Lila's death, she finds that perhaps she didn't know her sister as well as she thought she did. The only slight negative to the story, for me, was that there is a lot of mathematical theory discussed by the characters that was way over my head. I found myself skipping sections of the story.
Ellie goes in search of the killer of her sister, Lila after many years. Her parents marriage has broken up, after Ellie confided in a college professor of hers. The college professor wrote a book about Lila's murder, using Ellie's own words. The book points to Lila's lover, Peter McConnell as the killer. Ellie sets out to find the truth and her search takes her from San Francisco to Nicaragua. In her search Ellie finds out more about herself, as well as, about her sister, Lila.
This was the first book that was sent to me by Early Reviewers. I read one of her earlier books, The Year of Fog and loved it. This book was equally as compelling for me. The first thing that struck me was the relationships between sisters, I have a younger sister and although our relationship is somewhat different, we are still extremely close. The book tells the story of two sisters, Ellie and Lila. Lila was murdered while she was a doctoral student in Mathematics at Stanford. Although the police did not arrest anyone, a book was published by a teacher of Ellie's that named a suspect, the married lover/co-student of Lila's. The book was a source of trouble for Ellie as she had spoken to her professor in confidence and had not realized until he was nearly done with the book that he planned to publish it or had even written anything.Ellie's life is thrown into an immediate tailspin when her sister dies. She knows the perfect sister died and she struggles to really find meaning with her own life. She flits from relationship to relationship, bed to bed and job to job until she falls into a job that suits her well, a coffee buyer.The story incorporates the fine art of tasting coffee and the world of mathematics in a story that in an odd way, makes perfect sense. I would recommend this book whole-heartedly because I think it's a story that has so many levels and just pulls one in further and further until the very last page.
I enjoyed this book just as I did The Year of Fog. Ellie 's older sister Lila, waas murdered 20 years ago . Ellie has a chance meeting with the man accused of her sister's murder. After the chance meeting, Ellie has a change of heart and decides to find out who really committed the crime. I was glad Ellie found out who killed her sister and finally have the peace and closure that was so long in coming.
Ellie Enderlin's brilliant older sister Lila is murdered when Ellie is a teenager. In the aftermath of the death, as Ellie and her family sink into grief and isolation, Ellie allows her writing instructor, Andrew Thorpe, to befriend her, and she uses him as a confidante, venting her sorrow and confusion, and frankly discussing her sister, her parents and herself.So she feels completely betrayed when he writes a "true crime" book about the murder, even though she begs him not to. Her parents feel that she has betrayed their privacy by bringing him into their lives, and, as the book climbs the bestseller lists, becoming wildly popular and jump-starting the author's career, the family members sink even deeper into grief and become distant from one another. The book adds yet another layer of sorrow to their existing grief, and Ellie chronicles the sad changes they all undergo, while not quite realizing how much the book itself is shaping the way she is beginning to see and live her own life.Richmond depicts in heartbreaking and realistic detail the effects a sudden death have on a family -the grief, guilt, and isolation that descends. Ellie helplessly watches her parents withdraw from each other, as she continues to feel survivor guilt, believing that, as the less favored sister, she should have been the one to die. The famous book becomes the "last word" on the murder, and the author actually names a suspect, who is never arrested and subsequently disappears.Eighteen years later, Ellie is approached by the suspect, Peter McConnell, at a cafe in Nicaragua. He admits to her that he moved there to escape the notoriety that followed him from the book, and he asserts his innocence, though he does admit to having an affair with Lila. These revelations make Ellie conflicted, since, despite some misgivings about details in Thorpe's book, she has lived her life as though the book was factually correct about the murderer.Beginning to question Thorpe's conclusions, Ellie reconnects with him. Thorpe, now a successful writer, has become borderline creepy, and he begins trading Ellie the names of other suspects (whom he had ignored in his book for dramatic reasons), for dates with her. Armed with these new names, Ellie begins her own investigation of the murder.Ellie has suffered issues with trust since her sisters death and the subsequent betrayal by her confidante. She feels that she is an outsider, always feeling guilty and suspicious, afraid to trust anyone, always stuck in grief and confusion. She sees the chance at solving her sister's murder as an active step toward defining her own life as a women, not just as forever a victiim of that one horrible act. She also sees it as a gift to her parents.The plot is compelling, the writing is very moving and beautiful, and the characters, especially Ellie, were very well drawn. The love stories, important subplots, are sweet and satisfying.I did find the elaborate passages about mathematics, Lila's passion, a bit contrived in context. I respect their purpose in the novel, but I though the highly technical nature of the conversations unnecessary sometimes. I also found Ellie's understanding acceptance of her discoveries and her lack of outrage and anger impossible to relate to. Her family was devastated, exploited, and kept from the truth for two decades. She herslf had struggled for a feeling of belonging and peace as long. Her sister gone, the murder not solved, the police apparently incompetent, her friend an ambitious betrayer, the main suspect out of the country, a secret kept for years. Well, I admire her acceptance and lack of bitterness, but I would have been plotting revenge against at least a couple of the players in this story. I know she felt a resolution by the end, but come on, Ellie, take some names! I loved the author's "The Year of Fog" (to which she slyly refers in this book). It was beautifully written, as well as a page turner. This book has all of thos
Although this book is billed as a mystery, it is so much more. It is the story of a woman's search for the murderer of her sister. She finds the murderer but in the process she also finds herself. Michelle Richmond's evocation of the nuances of the relationship between sisters who are close is amazing. An important aspect of the book's richness is the strong sense of place. San Francisco comes alive and is as much a character in the story as the people who inhabit it. On the deepest level this is a story about "stories" and they way we shape them and the way they shape us.