I call these literary thrillers because they delve into the psychology and daily lives of the characters well as being suspenseful. These three mini-reviews are completely spoiler-free, and therefore don’t say much at all, but I hope you’ll read them anyway.
by Bryan Reardon
Stay-at-home dad Simon Connolly rushes to the high school with all the other parents in his family’s upper- middle-class neighborhood when they get the news that something terrible has happened there, but he and his wife Rachel, a lawyer, only get to collect their daughter, Laney. Jake, their son, Laney’s older brother, a quiet loner, is missing…and a suspect.
The writing in this first novel is a little amateurish at times, so you have to be in the mood to read uncritically. How the police behave is completely unrealistic, but to be fair, it’s hard to have a suspenseful story without having some unrealistic plot elements. The story is written in Simon’s voice, jumping back and forth from present to past, in alternating chapters, with Simon constantly questioning his parenting over the years. (For example, it starts in the present and jumps back to eight months before Jake is born.) Fans of Jodi Picoult and William Landay’s Defending Jacob should like this one.
For a more psychological, less suspenseful take on the subject of a guilt-ridden father wondering whether he raised a son capable of an atrocity, try The Good Father (Doubleday, 2012) by Noah Hawley.
Read a sample of Finding Jake.
HarperCollins, Feb. 2015
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train, which came out mid-January, is the book everyone was calling the next Gone Girl, so I read it early to avoid spoilers. If you liked Gone Girl, you will probably like The Girl on the Train, which is set in the suburbs of London and has an young woman narrator upset over an ended relationship. I thought it went on a little too long, but it was a fast, addictive read like Gone Girl. (Personally, I liked The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson better, which came out shortly after and also got thrown into the Gone Girl category. I thought I had posted a review already, but I guess I haven’t!)
Penguin, Jan. 2015
The cover of this debut novel, which is also compared to Gone Girl, has the tagline “No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret. Will you?” Set in England, this one alternates between past and present, with the present chapters narrated in the first-person present tense by Emily – a young woman hiding from her past and starting a new life – and the chapters about the past in the third-person. If you liked Before I Go to Sleep or The Silent Wife, you might like One Step Too Far. It kept me reading and guessing, but in an annoyed kind of way.
If I were 23 years old, instead of 53, I think I would have liked it better, so check out some of these other reviews (more detailed than mine, but still mainly spoiler-free, I think):
Disclosure: I feel bad about not reviewing One Step Too Far sooner because I received an advance reader’s copy from the publisher.