This is a chilling read - one that is unrelentingly dark and disturbing. It delves into the evil that men do, and what happens when people are pushedThis is a chilling read - one that is unrelentingly dark and disturbing. It delves into the evil that men do, and what happens when people are pushed to (and even beyond) their mental limits. In fact, the question of how intense psychological torment affects people differently is a main focus of the book, with some characters experiencing a fracturing of their minds, while others are eventually able to tap into reserves of resilience that were previously unknown to them. Additionally, and to the author's credit, this is one of those rare works that contains actual surprises, and even twists upon twists, and that holds true right up until the very end.
The reveal of the events that, as per the title, follow Daniel and Laura home, is something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, the build-up is intense, with the suspense ratcheting up with each successive turn of the page to the point where it becomes palpable. The reader is privy to the profound impact that the events in question have on those two characters, and one is simultaneously full of dread at the thought of what could prompt such turmoil and angst, and champing at the bit to find out what could possibly be so horrific.
The problem with said reveal is twofold: first, it could easily inspire rampant frustration in readers who are inpatient when it comes to being given answers, and/or due to the fact that there are some stops and starts at play, wherein Daniel begins to tell a character his story, only for those attempts to be quashed. The second, and more important, issue is that after the reader is informed of what happened, there is a very real letdown, even though suspenseful events continue to transpire. Indeed, after that point, the feeling of intrigue that is initially almost tangible dwindles like air slowly leaking from a balloon. It doesn't help matters that the second half features what feels like quite a bit of repetitive material, and a focus on flashbacks to the goings-on in the life of a character or two that seems largely unnecessary, and serves to slow or even momentarily derail the pacing.
As for the characters, they're all extremely flawed, but all the more real for it. In particular, Daniel is a character to whom the reader can easily relate, in terms of his reactions to what happens in and to his life. Laura is much more depressive, and the material about her starts to feel repetitive and like more of a chore to read as the story progresses. Other characters are less fully fleshed out, but are catalysts to what happens. The villain(s) of the piece vacillates between being truly frightening and the embodiment of pure evil, and being more along the lines of a cartoon villain, in terms of all that he's done, what he plans to do, and the complexity of the exposition that is required to explain all that leads up to the events in this story.
Overall, this is a well-written, suspenseful, deeply disturbing book. It does have its share of issues, and they're not insignificant, but if one exercises some patience (particularly in the second half), the book keeps people guessing, offers real surprises, and is something of a study in true psychological torment. Problems aside, I would recommend this to readers who are in the market for suspense and a surfeit of darkness. ...more
Arguably the most well done aspect of this book is the serial killer: he's cold, brutal, and depraved, and the method by which he picks his victims isArguably the most well done aspect of this book is the serial killer: he's cold, brutal, and depraved, and the method by which he picks his victims is unique, which makes it all the more chilling. Further, his identity is actually a surprise (though in retrospect, it should not have been), which is a rarity in books in this genre. However, there are myriad issues with the story, and there's even one - and it's significant - in terms of that twist: it is impossible for me to believe that one of his victims did not recognize him. The author provides excuses for that, but not a single one of them rings true for me, and the suspension of disbelief required to believe them proves to be a bridge too far for this reader.
Still more problematic is the sheer amount of exposition in the story: the huge cast of characters - which includes Andi, Luke, in-laws, various detectives, myriad witnesses, victims, an ex-girlfriend, siblings, friends, business rivals, Luke's clients, and the list goes on and on - is prone to having conversations and then almost immediately repeating the crux of said conversations to other characters. This being the case, there is a large amount of repetition, and the story meanders and drags on as the second-tier characters investigate a case from the past and unwittingly play catch-up to present events.
One of the worst examples of the reliance on unnecessary exposition is that the author makes use of the aggravating trope by which the villain, instead of ensuring that his goals are realized and getting on with the business at hand, feels the need to take the time to go into detail about every single one of his crimes, motivations, and overarching plans in a supremely long-winded speech. Making matters worse on that score is that most of his crimes are then summarized yet again just a handful of pages later.
When it comes to the relationship between Andi and Luke, that, too, falls short. The connection is of the instantaneous variety, but the why of it all eludes me, especially from Luke's perspective. Beyond Andi's physical attractiveness, she spends most of the piece being depressed, angry, panicked, and/or terrified. The issue is not that she doesn't have cause to be mired in negative emotions; it's that those things are pretty much all that she feels, and her reliance on Luke and the expectations she places upon him are huge, numerous, and begin from literally their very first meeting. From her perspective, it's easy to see why she falls for Luke, as he's a good-looking, smart, reliable, charismatic man, but the entire relationship seems tacked-on and baseless.
I had high hopes for this book, largely because of the synopsis and because I've long-considered Nancy Bush to be a good writer. Unfortunately, the surfeit of exposition not only bogs down the book, but it deprives the story of the opportunity to round out the central relationship, more adequately explain away some of the major questions that aren't satisfactorily addressed, etc. Ms. Bush has many good books to her credit; ultimately, though, this one proves to be disappointing. ...more