Review: The Happiness Thief by Nicole Bokat

Title: The Happiness Thief by Nicole Bokat
Publisher: She Writes Press
Genre: Contemporary, Domestic Mystery
Length: 280 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Forty-one-year-old Natalie Greene lost her mom and her childhood memories in a car crash two decades ago. What remains is a haunting feeling that she was responsible for her mother’s death. After her husband leaves for another woman, Natalie accompanies her famous stepsister, Isabel Walker (aka “The Happiness Guru”) on a retreat to the Cayman Islands. There, a late-night collision triggers Natalie’s long-buried trauma and a heightened sense of guilt.

Upon returning home to Boston, Natalie tries to settle back into her life as a food photographer and single mother to a teenage daughter—but then, one day, an anonymous email arrives about the Cayman accident that suggests foul play. In her search for the truth, Natalie must deal with a mix of fear, confusion, and suspects. With the help of Isabel and an attractive journalist, she uncovers a trail of deceit that begins on that deserted Caribbean road, circles back home, and ends in the most unexpected of places.


The Happiness Thief by Nicole Bokat is an interesting domestic mystery.

When she was a teenager, Natalie Greene lost her beloved mom in a car crash.  Natalie received a head injury in the crash, so she has lost quite a few memories including the day of the accident. Decades later, she still blames herself for what happened and she hopes to one day learn the truth. Due to her inability to let go of her guilt, Natalie is not always the most reliable person. Now going through a divorce, she lives with her teenage daughter Hadley.

Natalie is very close to her stepsister Isabel Walker and a recent trip together to the Cayman Islands leaves her uneasy. She begins to have doubts about what happened their last evening in the Caymans. And Natalie grows obsessed with finding answers after she begins receiving vaguely threatening emails. Will she discover the truth about what happened to her mom? And the events in the Cayman Islands?

Natalie is a successful food photographer and she has a very small circle of people she trusts. She is still friends with her childhood friend Cate and she also has Isabel. Natalie is still trying to get used to single life as she grows increasingly consumed with finding out exactly what happened that last night in the Caymans. Natalie tries to surreptitiously investigate on her own but she soon regrets her foray into detective work. She is also preoccupied and a little frustrated with Isabel’s carefree assurances. And Natalie is a little confused about a new man in her life as she tries to navigate being single.

Isabel is a wildly popular happiness guru who is spending quite a bit of time on the road. Due to her fortuitous marriage, she is quite wealthy. She is also very concerned about her image. Isabel is sometimes impatient with Natalie’s tendency to catastrophize but she attempts to reassure her that she has nothing to worry her. Natalie is a little concerned about some of the recent changes that Isabel is making but she mostly tries to support her career.

The Happiness Thief is an intriguing domestic mystery but it is occasionally slow-paced. The storyline is engaging but sometimes repetitious and predictable. Natalie is a little irritating at her inability to let go of her continued guilt over her mother’s accident. Her anxiety is palpable as she attempts to unearth what happened both in the past and present. Isabel can be self-absorbed and a bit impatient.  Nicole Bokat brings the story to a bit of a surprising conclusion.

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