Allie Ross is married, a talented photographer on the path to building a successful career and the mother of five-year old Cole. She and husband Mark have just recently moved into their first home in a Bethesda, Maryland community where parenting is akin to a competitive sport. Allie doesn’t fit the mold of the typical suburban mother, working or otherwise, but is looking to develop long term female relationships and find her niche. When they attend their first neighborhood party one evening, she’s approached by one of the divorced Dad’s who comes on strong and calls her by a nickname that she’s never used since high school. He turns up dead the next day and she discovers fake Tinder and Facebook social media accounts for herself, suggesting she’d known him intimately long before that night and her past comes back to haunt her. Suddenly everyone is suspicious of her, including Mark, as things began spiraling out of control.
Allie becomes an unreliable narrator but this time it’s not the reader who’s questioning her truthfulness but everyone in her sphere. It’s clear from the onset that someone else is out to destroy her reputation and much more. I was outraged on her behalf and kept looking for ways she could extricate herself from this mess as she became more deeply mired. Allie’s past is slowly revealed during the course of the story, giving me time to develop theories but there were too many well crafted red herrings to hone in on any one person (but I came close!).
This isn’t your typical debut novel that reflects some of the pitfalls of an inexperienced writer. The pacing is just about perfect, the writing is excellent and the characterizations well designed. The suburban setting was also deftly defined without resorting to caricature. While many of these women came across as being disingenuous, I also sensed the desperation that drove them, which took some skill because they were fairly unlikable. There are several propositions to ponder that aren’t easily resolved involving family, inappropriate relationships and community bullying. I liked having to think about these issues as I also worked to figure out the mystery, always worrying on Allie’s behalf. This was a solid psychological thriller that kept me guessing until the end. I’m also ready for the author’s next book, whatever it is and whenever it’s released.
- Release Date: June 8, 2021
- Page Numbers: 345
- Publisher: Forge Books
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(Thanks to the Macmillan Insiders Reader Club for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)