Desert Isle Keeper
Rock, Paper, Scissors
We’ve all played the game but few of us have used as high stakes as are utilized in Alice Feeney’s new domestic thriller Rock Paper Scissors. Told in alternating points of view, this locked room mystery will keep you guessing to the very end.
Amelia and Adam Wright are all wrong for each other. They can barely stand to hold hands and their counselor has recommended a holiday to rekindle the spark. “Can a weekend away really save a marriage?” they asked her. She seems to think so and as a result, Amelia and her screenwriter husband Adam head to the secluded, luxurious Blackwater Chapel in the Scottish Highlands for their romantic rendezvous.
Their arrival sets the ominous tone for the story. Adam and Amelia reach their retreat during a dreadful storm. The doors are locked and there is no key, but when they return from their search for a possible rear entrance, a journey which had seen them pummeled by the wind and ice, the doors are mysteriously wide open. The interior is rustic, and has a dusty, unused feel to it. Even though both speak of relaxing and making the best of it, they snipe at each other during every conversation. They dread spending several days alone together in these conditions – then a face appears in the window, causing Amelia to spill the wine she had just reached for and making them realize that perhaps alone together is safer than the alternative.
From the start it is made clear that both Amelia and Adam have underlying motives for agreeing to the vacation and that it is very possible one – or both of them – won’t make it back to London at the end of the book.
Like most thrillers today, Rock Paper Scissors is a chilling, atmospheric novel which features intriguing, flawed characters. Feeney does a fantastic job of capturing that sense in marriage of never really knowing the other person, and the ability even a spouse of many years has to surprise us. In the case of Adam and Amelia, there are many secrets beneath the surface of their union since a lot of lies paved their way to the altar, and this getaway will be the time everything comes out in the open.
Naturally, I can’t tell you much about that. It’s hard to write a review without details but in this case, it is also absolutely necessary. The plot is like a staircase, and you won’t know what’s waiting for you at the end until you arrive at it. Here are some of my general impressions, though, and hopefully they will be enough to encourage you to rush out and pick up this novel.
Our narrative, as per the current vogue, includes unreliable narrators who are keeping big, dark secrets. Adam, who has face blindness, feels he has compensated fairly well for this issue by being an astute judge of character. He has flourished in his career, in part due to being a workaholic, but he is far less aware of the world around him than he thinks he is and has no idea that the secret to his success is actually due more to his wife than the time and effort he devotes to his occupation.
Amelia has been told she loves animals more than people and she doesn’t doubt it. She finds people selfish and difficult to understand and Adam is no exception. She wants their marriage to work, but in Amelia’s mind, Adam’s sacrificed their love to his ambition – and she has no intention of continuing on in that vein.
Robin is our third narrator and just what role she plays in the story and how she is connected to Adam and Amelia isn’t apparent until the last few pages of the book. There were many times throughout the story that she felt superfluous or needlessly ambiguous, but I was quite satisfied with how the ending wrapped things up regarding her.
I’ve spoken often of the conclusion, and that’s because a full understanding of what is going on hinges on the denouement. The great news is, the book is riveting enough that you will be compelled to keep reading to the very last page, even though those final revelations will leave you wondering if justice is truly served at the end.
Something that I really appreciated is that none of the ambiguity is due to substance abuse or mental illness. The impetus for the plot comes strictly from things the characters are hiding and their desire to have them remain hidden. I liked also that no surprise villains showed up at the end -this is a mind game and the characters we are introduced to from the start have all the answers we need.
The entire time I was reading, and while I was writing this review, I kept thinking of Billy Joel’s song The Stranger. Specifically, the following lyrics.
Well, we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell
Why were you so surprised
That you never saw the stranger
Did you ever let your lover see
The stranger in yourself?
Rock Paper Scissors is those lyrics fictionalized and personified in book form. If they intrigue you at all, this book will be perfect for you.