Desert Isle Keeper
Emma in the Night
There are plenty of books out there that will tell you a predictable story in a predictable way, but Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker is something altogether different. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to devour in one sitting, so compelling is the story, and it’s one you’ll be thinking about long after you turn the final page.
Seventeen-year-old Emma and fifteen-year old Cass disappear from their mother’s home late one night, and the police are pretty sure they know what happened to Emma. Her car was found at a nearby beach and her shoes are fished out of the water. But there’s no sign of Cass. It seems unlikely the sisters would have gone off together, since their mother swears they were in the midst of a horrendous argument earlier that evening. For three years, not a single sign of Cass can be found, until she shows up on her mother’s doorstep with a harrowing story to tell.
Dr. Abigail Winter, a psychologist with the FBI, has never truly gotten over the disappearance of Cass and Emma Tanner. When the girls first went missing, she was willing to stake her entire career on their mother having something to do with whatever had happened to them. Something about her spoke to Abby, reminding her of her own troubled childhood, but was it possible Abby was allowing the ghosts of her past to influence her assessment of this case? Her superiors clearly thought so, and the case was left unsolved, but even three years later, Abby still thinks about the Tanner girls and the abuse she’s almost certain they endured at their mother’s hands.
When she receives news of Cass’s sudden return, Abby is eager to talk to the girl; the FBI has many questions, and Abby has a few of her own as well. But Cass very obviously has a plan, one she’ll reveal only in her own time. It’s obvious to Abby that the mystery is far from solved, but will she uncover the truth before it’s too late?
The story is told from the alternating points of view of Cass and Abby, and I found this narration style to be highly effective. Both characters tell us about past and present events, something I found super helpful as I tried to decipher the truth of what really happened to Cass and Emma.
Normally, I like to give potential readers a good idea of the direction a novel is going to take, but Emma in the Night has to be an exception to that rule. Part of what makes this novel so much fun to read is the author’s way of revealing the truth in very tiny pieces. I could lay it all out for you… but that would ruin it for you, so just trust me when I tell you you’re in for one very twisty ride. Ms. Walker has created a story filled with disturbing truths and characters who aren’t at all who you think they are. She has taken the unreliable narrator trope to the next level here.
On several occasions, I was sure I had things figured out but I was wrong every time. The story went off in directions I could never have predicted, but it didn’t come across as the least bit over the top. Sometimes, authors create endings that seem completely out of left field, and readers struggle to follow them, but that isn’t the case here. Sure, I was surprised by the ending, but only because I didn’t pick up on a few clues Ms. Walker had skilfully sprinkled throughout the early parts of the novel. Now that I know how the story ends, the clues seem obvious, but they certainly didn’t as I was reading.
There are several fairly graphic scenes of abuse in the book that could prove upsetting for some readers. Cass and Emma come from a deeply troubled home where both physical and mental cruelty are quite commonplace. Personally, I found the mental manipulation was harder to deal with than the physical stuff, but I know that won’t be the case for everyone.
Despite the scant information I’ve given you in this review, I hope everyone will give Emma in the Night a try. It’s a great thriller, perfect to curl up with during a summer thunderstorm. Once you start it, I’m sure you won’t want to put it down. I know I didn’t.