He Started ItHe Started It by Samantha Downing
Published by Berkley on July 21, 2020
Pages: 384
View Title on Goodreads
Bantering Books Rating: four-stars

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven't all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we'll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.
But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.
It's even harder when you're all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won't stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there's a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.
But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

Bantering Books Review

“Sometimes we are a family of [@]ssholes. You can blame that on Grandpa, he started it.”

Yep, folks. That’s the Morgan siblings. A more apt description than the above, I could not write.

But oh, what fun it is to follow this family of @ssholes on their road trip from hell in Samantha Downing’s latest novel, He Started It.

(Cue the beginning notes of Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham. Let’s add some catchy background music.)

Beth, Eddie, and Portia Morgan have been estranged for years. That is, until their extremely wealthy grandfather passes away and leaves instructions outlining the specific conditions that need to be met to receive their individual inheritances.

What must they do? Go on a road trip. The exact same road trip they took with their grandfather 20 years ago. (Which did not include a stop at Walley World, by the way. Grandpa is no Clark Griswold.)

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the twenty years that have passed since the initial excursion – secrets still abound, hurtful betrayals reoccur, and trust cannot be given. Little do the Morgan siblings know what all this trip has in store for them, as they once again travel cross country on a journey that is even more wild than the first.

Honestly, I’m not even certain where to begin. Because He Started It is seriously one of the craziest thrillers I have ever read. And the Morgan family is seriously one of the most disturbingly dysfunctional families I have ever encountered in a novel. I am literally sitting here, shaking my head in dismay as I reflect on the story and write this review. Truly, I am struggling to find words.

Middle child, Beth, is our narrator. Through her voice and memories, we are privy to an insider’s view of both the past and present road trips. She is smart, snarky, and entertaining. But also, a little bit “off.” It is clear from the get-go that something is not quite right with Beth, and it is difficult to ever fully like her.

And the same holds true for Eddie and Portia. All three Morgans have committed despicable acts and do not have many, if any, redeeming qualities. As a reader, it is difficult to have empathy for the siblings and be tolerant of their behavior.

But for a novel centered around such wholly unlikable characters, He Started It sure makes for a crazy, entertaining read. The story is compelling and addictive. It’s compulsively readable. The pace is brisk, and the pages turn quickly as the chapters are short. There are surprising twists aplenty – and the final scene is so horrifically shocking that it will render most readers dumbstruck. It’s one that could’ve come straight out of a Quentin Tarantino film. (Yes. It’s that good.)

Downing’s writing style, however, is not that good. It’s simple and plain; it’s a bit too lean and sparse. She neglects to dig deeply into any of her characters, and most everything is told rather than shown. It’s efficient enough, I suppose, but I do wish she would’ve fleshed the story out further, put a bit of meat on its bones.

More importantly, though, Downing knows how to tell a story. And He Started It is one hella good, train wreck of a story that is almost impossible to stop reading, once you start.

So, sit back. Relax. And enjoy the wild ride.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy from Edelweiss and Berkley. All opinions included herein are my own. Quotes are subject to change.