All too often I end up disappointing with mysteries/thrillers/psychological suspense because you can see the twist(s) from a mile away. Well, The Perfect Mother blindsided me! It’s about a group of first time mothers living in Brooklyn who regularly gather for baby advice and peer support. When one of the babies is abducted, they discover that despite their superficial bonds, they know precious little about one another. I didn’t think this was an amazing read (some of the characters were just too shallow/weak/caricature-ish) but it certainly held my attention -- and props to the author for coming up with a solid twist! It will interesting to see how it translates into film. Yes, a book that was only released earlier this month is already set to be made into a movie. Rumour has it that Kerry Washington will star.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani is compulsively readable in a menacing sort of way. Translated from the French, it follows a Parisian couple who decide to bite the bullet by hiring a nanny for their two young children. The nanny they land on -- Louise – makes their lives so much easier at first. She goes well beyond her assigned childcare duties. She cooks elaborate meals, keeps their apartment in pristine condition, arrives early and stays late. Louise seems perfect…but the reader knows from the beginning that she is not. If you like character-driven, psychological suspense novels that have a literary lean (think Harriet Lane, Donna Tartt), read this!
I’m definitely in the minority, but Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney didn’t do it for me. It’s a psychological thriller that primarily focuses on a woman, Nora, who is in a coma. She can hear everything that is going on around her, but has no memory of the past 24 hours or what landed her in the hospital. We know from the beginning that she in an unreliable narrator (hello, read the title) and that there will be twists afoot as she begins to piece together what happened. I just didn’t feel that the story was believable. While the twists were good and plentiful, they felt a bit over the top. However, it has a solid 3.92 stars on Goodreads which tells me that most people are liking this one. It’s still worth a try if you love this genre.
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor has definite Stephen King vibes. A lot of readers have compared it to King’s short story The Body (which was adapted into the film Stand by Me), but I thought it compared even more to IT, minus the killer clown. The ragtag group of kids in these books are just so similar. Set in the 1980s, The Chalk Man follows Eddie and his friends. As kids do, they develop a secret code that they use to communicate privately with one another: colour-coded chalk men. Then one day they discover a chalk figure that leads them to a grisly discovery in the woods: the dismembered body of a local teenage girl. Flash forward to the present (or so), Eddie is now a heavy drinker living in his childhood home. One day he receives a mysterious letter containing a chalk figure. He soon discovers that the rest of his friends have received the same letter. Suddenly it is clear that their childhood demons have come back to haunt them. While I didn’t find this to be the most engrossing thriller, there were many elements I liked about it. Without giving anything away, there is a subplot involving dementia that I found very interesting.
Zara’s Dead by Sharon Butala is definitely a mystery that stands out in my mind. First of all, our heroine is an older woman (which is not something you see all too often outside of the cozy mystery subgenre). Second, it takes place in the Prairies. Loosely based off of a real murder that took place in Regina in the 1960s, it follows a woman named Fiona who continues to obsess over the long unsolved murder of an acquaintance. She even published a book on the topic, although it got her into some hot water and never lead to any real answers. Fiona has all but given up when a suspicious letter is delivered to her Calgary condo, prompting her to resume her investigation. While I found the unfolding mystery to be a bit far-fetched, Fiona’s character development throughout the various subplots kept me reading.
All of the novels can be reserved at your branch of the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries or online at CountyLibrary.ca.
Written by Catherine Coles. This article was originally published in the Napanee Beaver.