The Tell-Tale Treasure is a thriller for which one cannot use the standard descriptions such as fast-paced, edge of your seat, or thrill a minute. That is its most interesting appeal.
Diane Sawyer’s The Tell-Tale Treasure is a bit of an anomaly for a work of its genre.
This is a good thing.
The novel, written in 3rd person limited narration, shifts between characters throughout the work. Most readers will find the two most affecting of these narrations those that shift between Rosie Renard, an antiques dealer whose discoveries reopen a cold case concerning a talented classical musician who plays the erhu, a Chinese instrument similar to the violin, and Ivy Chen, a kidnapping victim who is a classical musician who plays that fascinating instrument…
What Rosie finds, and where that leads her and the police and how all this works out to a successful (for the reader) conclusion is part of the charm of this novel. The pleasure for the reader in The Tell-Tale Treasure is not in its main plot. The pleasure for any astute reader of Sawyer’s novel is in the parts of the novel that offer readers the opportunity to know, really know, her characters, particularly Rosie and the musician mentioned above, the classical musician Ivy Chen.
For me, while the story of Rosie Renard and her struggle to come to terms with the abduction and murder of her cousin Tess is powerful and helps motivate the character and humanizes her, the real attraction of this novel is Ivy Chen. It is the story of her struggle to come to terms with her abduction and captivity. It is also the story of how she uses her intelligence and talent to keep herself alive.
Telling the story of these two remarkable women takes time. And it is to Sawyer’s credit that she does not sacrifice the telling of these women’s stories to the need to hasten her plot or create an unnecessary sense of urgency and suspense. By the end of The Tell-Tale Treasure, readers know and care about Ivy Chen and Rosie Renard. The patience of the reader in accepting a more thoughtful unfolding of the plots of their stories and the depth of their characters makes for a rich read. This enriches the novel and makes Sawyer’s work an example of how what could have been a typical example of the “woman in danger” suspense novel a surprisingly satisfying experience for the reader who desires something more.