Top critical review
February 9, 2018
I love dark psychological suspense, and was looking forward to reading this one. The story intrigued me at the start, but things, for me, fell apart as they went along. I'll do my best to explain without spoilers.
The story is told via three narrators - Emma, her husband Alex, and the supposed dead man Luke - all in first person. We also go back and forth with three timelines: 2017, 2013, and 2002/2003. All the transitions are clearly marked at the start of the chapters, so you need to pay attention to the year and the narrator's name. I had no problem with this layout, though I'm not a fan of this much back-and-forth storytelling.
Early on, we're treated to Luke's psychopathic narration, and we see his seduction of teenage Emma. This is handled well, in that we witness the way a predator grooms a child and we feel for Emma's situation. The problem in giving Luke this narrating part and showing us exactly what happened is that it takes all suspense away from Emma's current part. As the story unfolds, everyone but we readers is questioning whether Emma has made up the whole thing. Is she crazy? Is she the one obsessed? I would've liked to be asking those same questions along with the other characters.
The pace is slow through the first 3/4 of the book. We spend a whole lot of time in each character's thoughts, mulling over the same thing, over and over. The suspense quickly turned into tedium for me.
There isn't a whole lot of character development. We only see them through the lens of the specific situation. I found it difficult to connect with any of them, and I just didn't feel the emotion I should have given such a powerful topic.
I saw the twists coming early on, though I have to say that I expected a slightly different take on one of them. I can't get into the specifics, and will only say that it changed my opinion of Emma. The way the twist played out made me lose sympathy for her. More importantly, I couldn't make the leap of someone in her situation choosing as she did in such a calculating manner.
The last quarter of the book speeds up considerably. The outcome is predictable and, sadly, by the time I got there I found I didn't really care.