337, Mystery Novel Review with Spoilers!

Author Jonathan M. Lee

Thank you so much to Hideaway Fall Publishing for providing me with a copy of 337 in exchange for this honest review.

337 is a mystery novel/ family drama that is advertised as a book that the reader can read both forward and backward. This novelty intrigued me and is honestly the main reason I agreed to review the book.

Clearly, you can imagine my disappointment then that when the publishers say “can be read both forwards and backwards” they actually meant that the book can be flipped over and you can read the same 16 page prologue on either the first or the last pages of the book. That’s a bit of false advertising if you ask me.

Honestly, I think the author only did this for a play on his own name. Since 337 upside down is LEE, the book spine can read either way. I especially think this is true since the number 337 is completely arbitrary as far as any significance to the plot goes. Seems to be mostly an exercise in vanity.

covers for the book 337
LEE 337

The book starts (or “ends”) with Sam, who’s mom disappeared 19 years ago. She just left behind a note and her wedding ring one day never to be seen by her family again. Because of this, Sam’s relationship with the rest of his family is strained at best.

Out of the blue Sam’s father calls him. At this time the reader can only presume that he’s calling from prison. Sam withholds a lot of information from the reader so this will not be confirmed for some time.

But dad calls and insists that Sam go visit his dying Gramma in the nursing home. He doesn’t say why but he is very insistant. Even after Sam visits the first time, dad insists he visit again.

After one of the visits Sam realizes he left his jacket behind. He returns to the nursing home to find it and discovers that his wallet has been emptied of all cash and receipts. I thought this would be a bigger plot point. It seemed to hold some gravitas in the way it was presented to the reader but it never really came back to have much consequence at all.

Sam and Gramma begin to bond through these visits and Sam begins to go out of more than guilt and obligation. He is able to go frequently because of his flexible work schedule.

Several times throughout the book we are shown a countdown clock that says how many hours Sam has left to work in the week. Now, when I see a countdown clock in a book or movie I assume it’s building to something important. However, this did not seem to be the case in 337. Yet another point I thought would mean a lot more than it ever did.

countdown page in 337
so ominous…

Sam begins to question Gramma about the disappearance of his mother. He believes she could help him solve the mystery before she dies. She agrees to help but wants him to attempt to bring in Tom, Sam’s estranged brother, for a visit as well.

Tom is reluctant and busy with his life as a rock star. But he finally agrees to come visit, causing Sam some relief from being the only responsible family member.

It’s around this time that it’s revealed to the reader that Sam’s father is in prison for murdering his wife, Sam’s mom. However, it is questionable whether or not he actually did it. Actually, it’s questionable that there was a murder. I have no idea how good the prosecuting attorney for this case must have been but they managed to get a murder conviction without a body, proof of death, or any evidence at all from what I gather. That’s quite near impossible.

Tom makes it to visit but just in time to see Gramma pass away. The brothers spend a little time reconnecting and getting to know each other a little better before Tom hits the road again.

Sam gets a phone call saying that his father has passed away in prison, right after Gramma did. For some reason, he decides to withhold this information from Tom.

Sam decides to leave the mystery behind him, he burns all evidence and clues he’s collected over the past years. Then a previously unknown and undocumented witness makes herself known to Sam.

The book then jumps through some blank pages to signify the passing of time. We land at chapter 337, a totally random number that is never otherwise mentioned in the book. Mom gives Sam a call. She’s alive. The End.

Will there be a sequel called 338? I’m not sure but since it seems like 9/10 books have sequels anymore I think it’s a fair bet. I’m honestly extremely sick of stories not having endings. It’s really starting to agitate me. This isn’t a novel, it’s a really long prologue.

I think I went into 337 with higher expectations than it deserves. I thought that an author who could successfully write a book backwards and forwards would at least have some strong creativity to admire. Well, he couldn’t even do the gimmick he promised so nothing else really fell into place either.

I enjoyed the relationship between Sam and his Gramma, if you like family drama and reconciliation you’ll enjoy that aspect for sure. But the rest falls flat. It’s a relatively uninteresting mystery with an underserved cliff hanger ending. It’s mostly trying too hard to be something it’s not.

2/5 doors 🚪🚪

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