This just might be the best thriller I’ve read all year (and I read a LOT of thrillers). Why, you ask? For a number of reasons:
1. The main character, Sienna Scott, is a genuinely likeable person. She was handed some major negativity early in her life (a mentally ill mother, stumbling across a murder victim in college), and is working hard to move past these events. It’s nice to see this lovely young woman making an effort to reconnect with her family and achieve her dream of owning her own restaurant. Of note, events cause Sienna to worry that she may have inherited her mother’s mental illness.
2. The secondary characters, notably Jonathan, Randy, Bradley, and Mrs. Scott, are also drawn realistically and distinctly. Some are likable, some are not, and some are to be pitied, but they are all unique and interesting characters. Even minor characters, like the already-deceased Mr. Scott and Mrs. Scott’s doctors, are presented clearly enough that they seem like real people.
3. Author Erica Spindler keeps you guessing about what is real and what isn’t. The nature of Mrs. Scott’s (and possibly Sienna’s) mental illness means that she perceives people and events in a certain way. While she fully believes things are as she sees them, the reader is left unsure as to what is reality and what is delusion.
4. My favorite part of a thriller is trying to figure out who the “bad guy” is. Ms. Spindler gives the reader three solid suspects, and develops each one, along with their motives, as the story moves along. A couple of less-solid (but still plausible) suspects are also thrown into the mix. I honestly suspected multiple people at different times as I read. By the end, I had a pretty good idea, but only because some suspects are gradually eliminated. Also, since I had suspected virtually everybody at some point, I was bound to have been right. This element of multiple truly legitimate suspects really made the book stand out for me. The suspense element was handled perfectly, and I was obsessed with reading on to see what happened. I had to make myself put the book down for little things like “sleeping” and “going to work”.
5. The final reveal made perfect sense in the end. One extra-awesome bit….there was a clue I picked up early on. However, I thought it might have been an editing oversight, since I read an ARC (not a final version) of this book. As it turns out, it wasn’t an oversight at all, but a critical clue that tied everything together. The novel also gets bonus points for having the culprit be a character who was part of the book all along. I really hate thrillers that bring a character into the story late, and that person ends up being the bad guy.
All in all, five out of five slices of the freshest American cheese. I really loved this book, and it will be making my “Best of 2020” list. Bravo, Ms. Spindler!