A Criminal in the Family: The Best Kind of People and Fear

October 12, 2017 Mini Book Reviews 12

What would you do if a family member is accused of a horrific crime? Both these books address this situation in very different ways. In one, the accused a beloved family man and pillar of the community, while the other accused is a gun-loving somewhat absentee father. Regardless, each family is left reeling and there is far more to the story than they imagined.

Best Kind of People by Zoe WhittallThe Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
Fiction (
Released September 19, 2017)
352 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Ballantine Books)

Plot Summary: When George Woodbury, a beloved teacher and pillar of the small community of Avalon Hills, is accused of sexual misconduct, his family tries to navigate their upturned world.

My Thoughts: The Best Kind of People is what I call an “aftermath book.” It’s not a page-turner about George Woodbury’s alleged crimes, but more an exploration of the repercussions on his wife and two children (one grown and one still in high school). It explores the conflicted feelings of the loved ones surrounding someone accused of a horrific crime, when you’re forced to reset your view of someone you love and respect, and the unique implications of this playing out in a small, upscale community. I enjoyed all these elements of the story.

However, a couple things bothered me. First, Sadie Woodbury (George’s high school aged daughter) constantly spouted facts and figures about sexual assault, which made the “issue” angle of the book feel heavy-handed. And, without spoiling anything, I wish the existing ending had occurred a little earlier in the book and we’d gotten to explore a bit of the aftermath following the big reveal. Following everything the Woodburys had to face with George, I wondered how they’d face that final turn of events. Despite these flaws, I do think The Best Kind of People would make a great book club selection…lots to discuss here.

Fear by Dirk KurbjuweitFear by Dirk Kurbjuweit
Fiction – Translation (
Released October 3, 2017)
272 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Harper)

Plot Summary: After a stalking campaign by Randolph Tiefenthaler’s downstairs neighbor, Randolph’s father lands in prison for shooting the neighbor.

My Thoughts: Fear is what I like to call a “why book.” It starts with the main event and the suspense lies in discovering the how and why. I love this type of story and Fear was no exception. It was marketed as a “gripping thriller,” but I’d say it’s more of a slow burn. The overall feel is very European (logical since this is a German translation). Think Herman Koch (more Dear Mr. M than The Dinner) and Based on a True Story, with the tension simmering and crackling beneath the surface rather than exploding in a more traditional, action-packed way. I could feel the tension of the Tiefenthaler family trying to hold it together in the face of this evil outside force and loved how Kurbjuweit explores the family’s reactions along the way.

Fear is a bit of an untraditional thriller, which tend to work better for me than the traditional kind. It’s chock full of keen observations about marriage, Randolph’s experience as the son of a gun-loving father, and Randolph’s childhood growing up in Cold War-era Berlin. That being said, this type of thriller is not for everyone and some readers might be hard-pressed to even call it a thriller. But as someone who generally has trouble with run-of-the-mill thrillers, Fear stood out for me.

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12 Responses to “A Criminal in the Family: The Best Kind of People and Fear”

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    I definitely don’t go for run of the mill thrillers, so Fear might be a good one for me. I’m especially interested because you said it has a bit of a Based on a True Story vibe. Best Kind of People…I’m still on the fence about reading that one.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I do think you’d like Fear..it’s kind of the style/tone similar to True Story, not really plot.

  2. Kris

    You got me with Fear, Sarah, just put it on my Library TBR list. I had a similar reaction to yours re: The Best Kind of People. I thought it would be more about the crime and his guilt, but nope! The ending did seem out of left field to me, what with the wife’s seeming resolve.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I didn’t mind it not focusing on the crime, but I wish we’d gotten to see the family’s reaction to that final twist!

  3. Arianna

    Eh, I didn’t ultimately care for The Best Kind of People. It had so much promise! And having grown up in CT, I was intrigued by the idea of small-town affluent CT being blown open by a scandal like that. But I didn’t feel as if it delivered. And I agree, the ending just fell totally flat for me.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yeah – it was fine for me, but just that. Nothing more. So much promise, though, right?!

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