Finders, Seekers, Losers, Keepers by Heather Rolland

Finders, Seekers, Losers, Keepers is a friendly, low-key novel that reads like a cross between a slightly obsessive diary and the script for a melancholy sitcom. The cover is positively adorable, the author photo oozes cheery goodwill, and the café flyer illustrations do a great job at setting the mood and making you feel like a part of the small community that lies at the heart of the novel.

Halia Frank is a middle school science teacher in a miniature New York hamlet. She’s something of a career loner, but she’s grown worse since an attempt at normalcy with a sleazy husband named Bones ended in predictable failure. She has a circle of cute and variously quirky friends who put up with her emotional coolness and weird Sherlock Holmes complex, and they all meet up on a weekly basis at this hopelessly perfect café where everything is blue and the drinks all have cool names and everybody knows everybody.

The main plotline, involving the disappearance of and search for a distant relative to whom Halia owes money, is more of a backdrop than the central focus of the novel. It gives Halia something to focus on and fret about to her friends, but since we’re assured almost immediately that the missing Joann is probably fine and the search is mostly to satisfy Halia’s curiosity and let her indulge her penchant for mystery-solving, the tension is never very high.

And for the most part, that’s fine. Rolland’s little world of friendly people and darling places is quite happy without any drama more intense than missing exotic rodents and blueberry ice cream that won’t quite turn the right shade of blue, thank you very much. A thriller this is not, but neither is it boring, as it easily could have been—the novel just meanders along, delivering its perfectly good message of the benefit of letting new things into your life and finding happiness right where you are.

The writing itself, I have to admit, was frustrating at times. The absolute intensity of the “telling” rather than “showing” is impossible to ignore – even when something actually manages to get shown, Rolland rushes in with a “tell” to make sure everyone caught it.

In the grammar column, there’s a distinctly misguided aversion to pronoun usage, leading to characters’ names being repeated with truly annoying frequency. There are also exactly two continuity errors that don’t affect anything besides flow, and a systematic misusage of “loathe” for “loath” that I only picked up on because there was just a Grammar Girl episode about it last week.

But really, the only thing that consistently pulled me out of the story was the “telling,” and it’s too bad, because all the other elements are there. I hope Rolland irons this out in her upcoming sequel, because with some work on technique, she could have an enjoyable series on her hands.