The Sun and the Sand and a Book in my Hand

Book Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Book Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker’s latest psychological thriller is filled with twists, turns, unreliable (or maybe not?) narration, and an intriguing storyline to keep you guessing.

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About the book:

Three years ago, fifteen-year-old Cassandra “Cass” Tanner and her seventeen-year-old sister Emma disappeared. Their car was found at a nearby beach, Emma’s shoes abandoned on the sand. No trace of the two was ever found, and it was presumed that Emma possibly committed suicide or died accidentally, no one knew what happened to Cass or even if the two were together when they disappeared. Fast forward to the present day, and Cass returns home–alone. All she asks is for them to find Emma. The novel is told in alternating points of view–from Cass’s present and past and from FBI forensic psychologist Dr. Abby Winter’s perspective.

Cass agrees to tell the story of what happened to her to the FBI and her mother. Right away, Dr. Winter starts to feel like something about the tale is not as it appears on the surface. Abby grew up with a mother suffering from narcissistic personality disorder and has since become an expert on the subject, researching every angle to attempt to understand why and how her mother looked at the world in such a skewed way. Abby sees these traits clearly in Cass’s mother, so Abby is alert to signals that others might have otherwise missed. Cass begins to tell a story initially of escape from their home life, but one that turned into kidnapping and imprisonment on a remote Maine island. All Cass wants is for them to find Emma. As the FBI closes in on the location, Abby again begins to wonder if Cass is telling the entire truth, or just bits and pieces of what happened. The more clues she finds and the more she listens to Cass, the more Abby determines that nothing is as it seems. Will they ever find Emma?

My Opinions:

I was convinced from the beginning that something was off with Cass’s story, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. She is an intriguing character, and the more you learn about her backstory, the more you will both sympathize with her and suspect that it must have twisted her in some way. I was captivated by the unfolding of events, because for the longest time I could not figure out where it was going, even though different clues are peppered into the dialogue and in Cass’s thoughts and actions. I admit that I did figure part of it out, but not the entire thing. The way Abby puts those clues together and melds them with her own background and experiences in order to figure out exactly what happened is as much a part of the story as the mystery itself.

The pacing of Emma in the Night is excellent, as it moves forward with the past and the present at the same time, never getting too bogged down in one or the other, which is a difficult thing to balance. One thing that might grate on certain readers is that the story is told to us mostly from Cass’s point of view, we never actually experience the story as it is occurring. Abby’s observations are also colored by how and what is told by Cass. While this is sometimes a deal breaker for me in a novel, for whatever reason, it worked in this particular book. Part of the enjoyment of the story is learning just how much Cass wants to reveal to those who are listening (or reading), and then those listeners (the FBI, Cass’s mother, the reader) sifting through the information and deciding what is real and what isn’t, and why it is being told that way.

The addition of Cass’s mother’s narcissistic personality disorder gives the book an additional dimension, and adds to the twisted nature of the novel. It is not a subject I’m familiar with at all, I thought it was just someone being only concerned about themselves and no one else, but there’s a large amount more to it. This gives Emma in the Night depth and really gives a unique twist to the story.

Bottom Line:

Emma in the Night is a twisty thriller with surprises on every page. Cass’s character is multi-faceted and the reader doesn’t know whether or not to trust what she is saying–we know she has deep secrets, but it’s not clear until the exciting conclusion the breadth of those secrets and why she is hiding them. Highly recommended as a fresh, intriguing psychological suspense novel that will keep you up late into the night in order to discover the truth.


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My honest review is based on a book that I purchased.


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