Okay, so that was a long and clunky title for any blog post, but that’s honestly what I did. I read the synopsis of Wendy Walker’s Emma in the Night and thought Hey–two girls disappear and only one comes home? that’s kind of an interesting premise… and so I entered the sweepstakes and won a copy.* I eventually brought it down to the treadmill to read, and I started it on Tuesday. Which is when I realized that while I’m all over psychological thrillers when I’m watching, say, “The Mentalist” (back when it was good) or “NCIS” (it used to be better, but still), I’m more of a historical fiction/coming of age reader. How did I temporarily forget this?
Ah, well. Yeah, this type of book messes with my head–that’s kind of the point, right?–but it certainly made my treadmill time this week pass quickly. I’m feeling a bit list-y today, maybe because I stayed up until 2:30 this morning finishing this book, so instead of a traditional review you get, well, a list. Enjoy!
- It was compelling. Which is a LOVELY thing on the treadmill.
- It kept me guessing. Some of the “who”s were purposely indicated early on (although not all of them), but the “how”s were still a surprise to me. (That’s awkwardly punctuated…sorry. It was a late night.)
- The alternating narrative styles–one first person, one third–weirdly worked for me.
- Walker obviously did her homework. I found the specifics of narcissistic personality disorder fascinating.
- I personally prefer to like a certain percentage of characters in any given book, and very few of Walker’s characters were all that likable. To be fair, though, it was certainly intentional on her part, and it is a personal preference.
- The ending felt both more realistic and less realistic than what feels usual to me for a mystery, which is about all I can say without spoilers.
- Some of the early scenes with the sisters and the barbie doll felt contrived for a bit of shock value.
- The description on the back points out the holes in Cass’s story; I was assured that the book “sets a new standard for unreliable narrators.” I LOVE unreliable narrators–and I think I would have enjoyed discovering for myself the extent to which Cass is–or isn’t. Knowing her story is suspect from the get-go takes away from the impact, I think.
Could Go Either Way
- How many blended families really have that many seriously-messed-up members? For a relatively small group of people, there were volumes of potential psychiatric case studies.
- Cass sounds unrealistically adult. Then again, growing up as she did may make that inevitable.
- Because my childhood was blessedly normal–at least, as normal as anyone’s childhood ever is–I couldn’t relate to most of the emotions going on in this book. Many of them were completely believable, but some I wonder about, because I just can’t know for myself.
- The ending. Again, I’m avoiding spoilers.
Bottom line? If psychological thrillers are your thing, absolutely go for it. If not, well…you’ll just have to decide how much messing-with-your-head you’re up for and decide accordingly.
*My thanks to Erica Martirano and St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ARE of this book!