Published by St. Martin's Press on August 8th 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Source: the Publisher
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Wendy Walker’s Emma in the Night is a captivating psychological thriller that centers on an unsolved missing persons case. Three years earlier, seventeen year old Emma Tanner and her fifteen year old sister Cass, disappeared. A thorough investigation was conducted but no trace of either sister was ever found and the case went cold. That is, until Cass suddenly turns up at her mother’s home with a harrowing tale of how she and Emma had been abducted and held prisoner on an island and that they need to go back and save Emma. As Cass recounts her story to law enforcement, a forensic psychiatrist on the case, Dr. Abby Winter, starts to get the feeling that Cass may not be telling them the whole story. Driven by some disturbing parallels she sees between Cass’s mother and her own, who suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Abby decides to take a closer look at Cass, Emma, and their family. Will Abby uncover a truth that is even more shocking than the tale Cass has come home with, or will she become so obsessed with the parallels to her own life that she can no longer work the case objectively?
Emma in the Night is one of those books that it’s best to go into knowing as little as possible, so aside from information already mentioned in the synopsis, I’m going to keep my comments as general as I can. That said, here are some elements of Walker’s novel that I thought made for effective storytelling.
Dual Point of View. Emma in the Night is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoint of Cass, the sister who has returned, and from Abby, the forensic psychiatrist who has been working the case since the sisters first went missing. I loved watching the mystery unfold this way, especially as the writing style for each point of view was so distinctive. Cass’s point of view sometimes came across confused and a little disjointed, while at other times, it almost sounded too precise, to the point of being calculated. It became clearer with each passing chapter that she may not be a very reliable narrator. As I became more and more suspicious of what she was saying sometimes, it was then nice to switch to a chapter from Abby’s perspective and see that she, as one who was listening to Cass tell her story, had some of the same questions and doubts I did.
Flawed Characters. I have a thing for flawed characters. I find characters with flaws to be so much more human and therefore interesting than characters that are too perfect. Well, let me tell you…this book is packed with flawed characters! We’re talking the textbook definition of a dysfunctional family right here. Interestingly enough, none of the characters are all that likeable either, maybe with the exception of Abby and the detective she works with. Likeable or not though, they are some of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read. There is an unhealthy power struggle in this family that is one of the biggest driving forces in this novel. Who has the power? Who wants the power? Who is willing to go to the furthest extreme to grab the power?, etc. It’s a tug of war that dominates and taints every aspect of their lives.
Intricate, Suspenseful Plot. If you like a thriller that will keep you guessing until the final pages, Emma in the Night is your book. I kept coming up with what I thought were very plausible theories about what happened the entire time I was reading, only to have my theories immediately debunked. I became as obsessed with the case as Abby was and devoured the entire book in less than a day because I just had to know if Cass was telling the truth or not. I never did guess the truth about what happened and was completely shocked when it was finally revealed, so major kudos to Walker for crafting such an intricate and unpredictable storyline.
Portrayal of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I majored in Psychology in college and remember reading many case studies on persons who suffered from this disorder. I appreciate that Walker clearly did her research and gives the reader an accurate portrayal not only of an individual who has NPD, but also of what it’s like to live with someone who has it.
The only real issue I had with Emma in the Night was the pacing. At first it seemed to move a little slowly for my liking. I came to quickly appreciate that though because it slowed me down and made me pay close attention to everything Cass was saying and especially how sometimes what she said didn’t quite mesh with what she was actually thinking. I think I might have missed some of the subtleties if the novel had started off at a break neck pace. Once I sensed something was off in Cass’s narrative and got caught up in trying to figure out the full story about what happened to Emma and Cass, the pacing became a non-issue.
Emma in the Night is a well-crafted and truly riveting psychological thriller. If you’re looking for a suspenseful read that you won’t be able to put down once you start reading, I highly recommend this one.
RATING: 4.5 STARS
Thanks so much to St. Martin’s Press and Wendy Walker for allowing me to preview an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shapes my opinion of the book.
From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…
One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.