Psychological thrillers are my bread and butter these days, and I was not disappointed by Wendy Walker’s take on narcissistic personality disorder and a missing persons case that is cracked wide open. I added this book to my TBR list when I saw it as one of the Book of the Month selections, even though I chose enough book that month, and now that I’ve finally read it, mostly in two sitting, I am glad I did.
Emma in the Night begins with Cass Tanner returning home. A simple story right? Except that Cass, and her sister Emma, disappeared three years ago and were presumed dead or runaway. Now, Cass is alive, and she’s got quite the story to tell about where she has been all those years. She’s back in the family home with her narcissistic mother and the police are crawling around trying to piece Cass’s story together so they can find Emma and save her. But Dr. Abby Winter is on the case as the psychologist, and she seems something much more troubling underfoot, something that will complicate the case and keep you flipping pages until you find out what happened to Cass and Emma that night, where they’ve been, and if they’ll ever truly be able to come back.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I started it while waiting for the optometrist and ended up reading nearly 80 pages straight without looking up. I can’t tell you if that’s because of the speed of the book or the slow wait, but I don’t regret it. I’m fascinated by books where people presumed dead show up alive, see my review of Good as Gone, but this book had a deeper level of psychological analysis that I thought was well done so that I understood its importance and how it manifested but I didn’t feel like I was sitting through a college lecture.
The point of view switches back and forth between Cass and Abby Winter and pivots in time, but it’s done really well in alternating chapters until the end where it feels a little rushed and it switches back and forth in one chapter using headings. I don’t see why it couldn’t have been broken up into really short chapters to keep consistency, but it’s not a big deal. Cass was a great unreliable narrator and Abby was an interesting, complicated character with a lot of backstory we didn’t get a chance to unpack as much as I wanted, but that’s because she wasn’t the focus of the story. I liked that Abby had this connection to narcissism that she could use to understand Cass and Emma’s mother, but I didn’t feel like it was fleshed out enough to matter. A lot of the jumps she made could have been based on a simple understanding of the disorder or the clues laid out rather than her own personal experience. It didn’t necessarily detract from the story, but it could have added a lot more, if Abby was supposed to be a character we care about. I don’t know if she is. She feels like an Olivia Benson type character, smart but troubled but you want her to succeed, but we need more of her. Unfortunately, I think this is a stand alone and Abby Winter isn’t about to get her own detective series, so we’re out of luck.
If you like psychological thrillers, unreliable narrators, missing children, mother-daughter relationships gone wrong, and some other crazy drama, this is the book for you. It’ll make you glad your family is so normal.