I’m always on the lookout for thrillers that don’t shy away from the darker, grittier side of life, so Fishnet by Kirstin Innes seemed like something that would appeal to me. It’s the story of one woman’s obsessive search for the truth about the sister who went missing six years earlier. Unfortunately, what could have been a riveting read turned out to be confusing and unsatisfying.
It’s been six years since Fiona’s sister Rona was last seen. She left her baby daughter in Fiona’s care and disappeared, not calling or even sending a postcard to let her family know she was okay. Fiona and her parents are understandably devastated by Rona’s actions, but they do what they can to move forward, mostly for the sake of Rona’s infant daughter.
Fiona works as a receptionist for a nearby construction company. It’s not rewarding work, but it helps keep a roof over her head, and allows her to raise Rona’s child as her own. She and her parents have long since stopped expecting Rona to reappear, but Fiona suspects a part of her will always wonder what became of her sister.
One afternoon, while running an errand for work, Fiona decides to stop by the flat where Rona lived before her disappearance. She’s not exactly sure what she’s hoping to gain from the visit, but perhaps one last bit of closure will help her believe she did everything she could to learn what really happened to Rona. At first, Rona’s former roommate doesn’t have much to say, but she eventually tells Fiona that Rona had been working as a prostitute before she vanished.
Fiona has led a rather sheltered existence, and knows next to nothing about the sex industry. Desperate to learn whatever she can about Rona’s last few days, she begins attempting to contact various sex workers in hopes of coming across someone who knew Rona. Of course, the people she questions are initially unwilling to open up to Fiona, but she eventually manages to strike up an uneasy alliance with a couple of women, and with their guidance, she starts forming a picture of what Rona’s life might have been like.
The story’s premise is amazing, but the book itself is less so. The author has chosen to tell the story in a very convoluted manner, making it all but impossible to understand the way certain events unfolded. I was hardly ever sure where I was chronologically, or how one series of events related to another. I normally don’t have a problem with nonlinear timelines, due in large part to most authors’ deciding to clue readers into where and when their stories are occurring. Ms. Innes doesn’t do this, and so the reader has to rely on context clues to piece things together, and those clues are all but impossible to figure out.
Rona is a shadowy character, responsible for much of the novel’s forward motion without actually playing a discernible part in the action. The reader is supposed to believe Fiona is desperate to discover Rona’s whereabouts, but that desperation doesn’t come through in the writing. Instead, Fiona comes off as a maladjusted young woman who feels overly weighed-down by her life circumstances and is looking for someone to ease her burdens. I was never sure if she wanted Rona to come back and take over the raising of her daughter, or if just knowing what had become of her would have been enough. Either way, it doesn’t matter since the story ends without ever revealing the truth about Rona’s disappearance.
One of my favorite things about reading novels of psychological suspense is the sense of urgency that normally drives these stories forward. I want the main character to solve the mystery before it’s too late, but that wasn’t the case here. Whatever happened to Rona has obviously already happened, so there’s no driving need for Fiona to uncover the truth, so parts of the story dragged unnecessarily as a result.
I do have to give the author credit for her delicate handling of a very sensitive topic. The story could have easily felt like a morality tale, leaving the reader feeling battered by the author’s sermonizing, but fortunately Ms. Innes did not take this approach. She obviously did a great deal of necessary research into the lives of today’s sex workers, and I applaud her balanced way of approaching the topic.
Fishnet is not a completely terrible book, but its flaws definitely outweigh its virtues. The confusing narrative structure and my inability to connect with Fiona make it a story I can’t recommend, but neither can I dismiss it out of hand. It’s a story that may work better for some readers than it did for me, especially if you aren’t bothered by thrillers with ambiguous endings.